The mood stabilizer Lithium is commonly prescribed to treat depression, but new research indicates that the drug may hold an intriguing anti-aging secret.
Publishing in the journal Cell Reports, a study led by researchers from University College London found that low doses of lithium was able to prolong a fruit fly’s lifespan by an average of 16 percent.
The team tested different doses of lithium on 160 different flies. High doses had ended up reducing the lifespan of these insects whereas the low doses led to an average 16-18 percent extension.
Lithium had also shown benefits as a, “transient and one-off treatment,” according to the announcement. UCL scientists administered the chemical as a one-off near the end of fruit flies’ lives and provided low doses to younger insects for 15 days before switching to a placebo. Both forms of these insects were able to live longer without any adverse events.
The key was that the drug simultaneously blocked a molecule called glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) and activated another labelled NRF-2. Humans, worms, flies, and other mammals carry this gene as a defense against cellular damage.
Essentially, this research shows that GSK-3 could serve as a potential drug target.
However, the BBC writes that the way lithium works on the brain is still not fully understood.
Still, study leader Professor Linda Partridge of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing told the website that the discovery was “encouraging” and they’re looking at targeting GSK-3 in more complex animals.
R&D 100 AWARD ENTRIES NOW OPEN:
Establish your company as a technology leader! For more than 50 years, the R&D 100 Awards have showcased new products of technological significance. You can join this exclusive community! Learn more.