Study shows lithium may slow Alzheimer's

People who drank water with higher concentrations of lithium were less likely to develop dementia.

Jordan Heuvelmans 2 minute read January 30, 2020

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Scientists have released a new study saying that micro-doses of lithium may be able to halt Alzheimer’s progression, even in its later stages.

The new findings base themselves on a study from 2017 that proposed the mood stabilizer lithium might help starve off dementia in patients. It was found that people who drank water with higher concentrations of lithium were 17 per cent less likely to develop dementia compared to people whose water barely contained lithium.

Since then, as Medical News Today reports, other studies and clinical trials have also suggested a link between micro-doses of lithium and the lowering of Alzheimer’s risk by influencing key pathological mechanisms at play in the neurodegenerative condition.

Dr. Claudio Cuello, who is with the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at McGill University, studied the effects of lithium micro-doses, calling the formulation NP03. They applied the dose to rats who had the equivalent of late preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease in humans to the point where cognition was already affected. The rats took lithium for 12 weeks and had their remote working memory assessed, levels of stress and neuroinflammation examined.

The results, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, showed that NP03 was effective as it “rescues functional deficits in object recognition” tests and helped to reduce damage that affects the brain in the later stages of the condition.

“From a practical point of view, our findings show that micro-doses of lithium in formulations such as the one we used, which facilitates passage to the brain through the brain-blood barrier while minimizing levels of lithium in the blood, sparing individuals from adverse effects, should find immediate therapeutic application,” said Cuello.

He’s hopeful that the research will soon go to clinical trials to either test NP03 with other drug candidates, in populations with a high risk of Alzheimer’s or adults who already have preclinical Alzheimer’s.

While Cuello notes that it’s unlikely that any medication can reverse the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s, he says that treatments with micro-doses of encapsulated lithium should have benefits in the early stages of the disease.