The hunt for a successor to lithium for bipolar disorder

Toxicity problems and adverse side effects when taking lithium, the mainstay medication for treating bipolar disorder, are fostering a scientific hunt for insights into exactly how lithium works in the body—with an eye to developing a safer alternative. That's the topic of the cover story in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News. C&EN is the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

Bethany Halford, C&EN senior editor, explains that often is the first-line medication used to calm the highs and boost the lows of bipolar disorder, which affects about 9 million people at some point in their lives in the United States alone. Lithium has distinct advantages over the dozen or so other medications. For instance, lithium is the only medication proven effective in preventing suicide in the mania phase of bipolar disorder. Lithium also is inexpensive.

The article explains, however, that lithium also has drawbacks, with a fine line between the effective dose and the toxic dose. Side effects include thyroid problems, weight gain and, in some cases, kidney failure. In the hope of skirting lithium's limitations, scientists are trying to pinpoint exactly how lithium stabilizes mood and how it engenders those unwanted effects. The goal is development of a second-generation successor without lithium's downsides, and Halford describes how scientists are working to do so.

More information: Limits Of Lithium - cen.acs.org/articles/91/i12/Limits-Lithium.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New link identified for bipolar disorder

Jun 17, 2010

Lithium has been established for more than 50 years as one of the most effective treatments for manic depression, clinically termed bipolar disorder.

Recommended for you

Research shows seven-year-olds can think strategically

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—A study by Melissa Koenig of the University of Minnesota and colleagues shows that by the time they reach the age of seven, children can think strategically, in an adult manner. The researchers ...

Discovery hints at why stress is more devastating for some

6 hours ago

Some people take stress in stride; others are done in by it. New research at Rockefeller University has identified the molecular mechanisms of this so-called stress gap in mice with very similar genetic backgrounds—a ...

User comments