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Lithium Might Pave Way for New Approach for Delaying Age-related Diseases

By jeremyc | April 7, 2016

A mood-stabilizing medication, lithium is used for treating bipolar disorder patients. However, a new study indicates that lithium might be useful in delaying the onset of age-related diseases as well as aging itself.

In the study, results of which were published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers administered lithium in different dosages to 160 fruit flies and sodium chloride to some other fruit flies.

Researchers found that, compared to fruit flies that were given sodium chloride, fruit flies that received lithium in low dosage on average lived 16 to 18 percent longer, irrespective of their genetic makeup. Fruit flies that received one-off or short-term doses showed the maximum increase in lifespan.

The fruit fly shares 2/3rd of disease causing genes in humans and therefore is suitable for carrying out studies on human genetics.

On further observation, researchers noted that lithium works by blocking a molecule called GSK-3. Earlier studies have shown this molecule to be associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related diseases.

In addition to blocking the activities of GSK-3, lithium was found to promote the activity of another molecule which plays a key role in keeping cells protected from oxidative stress (which plays a major role in our aging process).

Scientists believe targeting GSK-3 could pave way for a newer, better approach to delay aging in humans as well as the onset of age-related health conditions.

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