Lithium salt, circadian rhythms and a new treatment for bipolar disorder

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Bipolar disorder is characterized by states of mania and depression. Between 1% and 3% of the population are affected by it.

Mood swings in bipolar disorder has been associated with disruptions in circadian rhythms which are the 24-hour rhythms controlled by our body clocks that manage day and night. Lithium salt or lithium chloride has been the go-to treatment for bipolar disorder but little has been known about how it worked or how it affected circadian rhythms.

“Our study has shown a new and potent effect of lithium in increasing the amplitude, or strength, of the clock rhythms, revealing a novel link between the classic mood-stabilizer, bipolar disorder and body clocks,” said Dr. Qing-Jun Meng, lead researcher from the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences. “By tracking the dynamics of a key clock protein, we discovered that lithium increased the strength of the clockwork in cells up to three-fold by blocking the actions of an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase or GSK3. Our findings are important for two reasons: firstly, they offer a novel explanation as to how lithium may be able to stabilize mood swing sin bipolar patients; secondly, they open up opportunities to develop new drugs for bipolar disorder that mimic and even enhance the effect lithium has on GSK3 without the side-effects lithium salts can cause.”

Side effects from lithium salts can include nausea, acne, thirstiness, muscle weakness, tremor, sedation and/or confusion. GSK3 inhibiting drugs are already in development and prove promising for people who suffer with bipolar disorder.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, PLoS One

 
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