Mental Health Drug Shows Promise in Arthritis Treatment

Lithium chloride found to slow degradation.

Lithium chloride found to slow degradation.

A drug commonly used to treat mental health issues may provide a promising new treatment to arthritis patients.

A study conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in collaboration with the University of Otago in New Zealand evaluated lithium chloride, which is commonly used as a mood stabilizer for people suffering from bipolar disorder, for the treatment of arthritis.

The researchers examined the effect of lithium chloride on cartilage, which showed the drug is able to slow down degradation associated with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes degradation to joint cartilage, resulting in pain and loss of mobility.

The researchers used bovine cartilage samples that were exposed to inflammatory molecules that are similar to the effects of arthritis. The tissue samples were subsequently treated with lithium chloride.

The researchers concluded lithium chloride can prevent degradation and the loss of mechanical integrity in the cartilage of arthritis patients and that long-term dietary lithium use of lithium does not cause arthritis.

"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,” said study co-author Professor Martin Knight.