Lithium Study Helps Scientists Unlock Ageing Puzzle - Dream Health

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Wednesday 13 April 2016

Lithium Study Helps Scientists Unlock Ageing Puzzle


Low Doses of Lithium – Prolongs Life

According to research, a common drug could be responsible for long life in flies at least. Low doses of lithium tends to prolong the life of fruit flies in lab experiments and scientists state that the finding is encouraging and would ultimately lead to new drugs which would help people live longer with healthier lives. Lithium is utilised in psychiatry in helping to prevent mood swings though it has the risk of serious side-effect on consumption of high doses.

How lithium tends to act on the brain is not very clear but in fruit flies the drug appears to extend life by stalling a chemical called GSK-3. Response seen in flies with low doses of lithium is hopeful and the next step is to seek at targeting GSK-3 in more complex animals with the focus of developing a drug regime to test in human, according to Prof Linda Partridge of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, who led the study. In the research published in Cell Reports, it was observed that fruit flies lived 16% longer than average when low doses of lithium had been given. When given in high doses, lithium seemed to reduce the lifespan.

Shields Body from Stress/Block Fat Production

Co-researcher, Dr Ivana Bjedov from the UCL Cancer Institute stated that they found low doses not only prolonged life but it also shields the body from stress and block fat production for flies on a high sugar diet. Claire Bale of the charity Parkinson’s UK, part-funding the study states that `it is encouraging to see that the researchers have been able in identifying a key piece of the aging puzzle which one day may enable us to intervene in the aging process’.

 She adds that this research has the capabilities of not only helping in creating a healthier older generation, but also provides significant insights into how we could potentially treat or prevent conditions of aging like Parkinson’s. It is said that lithium salts had been utilised in the past as health tonic as well as to heal conditions like gout and migraines. Lithium, in modern medicine is used to boost mood stability in bipolar disorder and is also being considered for treatment of memory deficiency.

Focus – Extend Life/Live free of Diseases/Chronic Conditions

Slowing down the aging process and extending life is the most favoured choice of most of the individuals. Research into healthy ageing seems to be increasingly important since people tend to usually live longer. The focus is not only to extend life but to prolong the number of years of people who can live free of diseases and other chronic condition which infects old age.

Dr Jorge Ivan Castillo-Quan, earlier at UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing and presently at Harvard Medical School explained that to improve the quality and length of life, one must delay the onset of age-related diseases by extending the healthiest period of our lives. Identifying a drug target for ageing is a vital step in accomplishing this and by directing GSK-3 there is a possibility of discovering new ways of controlling the ageing process in mammals, including humans.

The team observed that lithium chloride delayed the ageing by blocking GSK-3 and activated another molecule known as NRF-2 that is found in worms, flies and mammals, which tends to play an important role in defending cells against damage.

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