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Mental health drug lithium chloride 'could be used to treat arthritis'

20:00 EDT 16 Jul 2015 | Arthritis Research UK

An international study has demonstrated the potential applications of a commonly-prescribed mental health drug in treating arthritis.

The collaboration between the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Otago in New Zealand has revealed that lithium chloride can slow the cartilage degradation associated with osteoarthritis, the most common form of joint disease.

Lithium chloride is used as a mood stabiliser in the treatment of mental health problems, primarily bipolar disorder. For this new study, published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research, the team used bovine cartilage samples exposed to inflammatory molecules to replicate the effects of arthritis, then treated the tissue with the drug.

It was concluded that the compound was able to prevent the degradation and loss of mechanical integrity of cartilage caused by arthritis, while it was also proven that long-term dietary use of lithium did not cause arthritis, contrary to previous research findings.

This is an important discovery given that osteoarthritis currently affects one-third of over-45s in the UK, with no treatments currently available that can prevent it.

Professor Martin Knight, co-author of the research, said: "Osteoarthritis has a devastating impact on the lives of many people in the UK and it's vital that we look for novel ways to prevent it.

"While we're still at an early stage in researching lithium's effects on cartilage and its suitability as a treatment, the possibility that an already widely available pharmaceutical could slow its progress is a significant step forward."

A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK said: "This is an interesting study that looks to repurpose a drug that's already available for a condition unrelated to osteoarthritis.

"Lithium chloride appears to block the signalling pathways that lead to the destruction of cartilage, so is a valid target for development as a potential therapy. However, this research is still in very early stages and would need to be shown to be effective in human patients and not just in a laboratory setting.

"There is a massive need for new and effective treatments that slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. At the moment weight loss, exercise and ultimately joint replacement surgery are the most effective ways of managing the condition, but we're working hard to find better and more effective treatments."

Original Article: Mental health drug lithium chloride 'could be used to treat arthritis'

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