Patients using the salts treatment show reduced erratic behaviour associated with the manic highs, but the treatment is less effective at reducing the depression side of the disorder. With few other drugs to treat people with bipolar disorder, there is a gap that is waiting to be filled with more specific therapeutic targets.
The mechanism by which lithium salts aid bipolar sufferers was not well characterised, but research in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Manchester has helped shed light onto a previously grey area. Dr. Qing-Jun Meng and his research team have found a link between bipolar disorder and a disruption of the circadian rhythms- the daily rhythms controlled by our body clock. Lithium salts work by inhibiting an enzyme that is involved in the disruption, leading to a three-fold increase in the stability of the rhythm.
Dr Meng’s research has opened a door towards the development of more targeted therapies that could give rise to drugs that are even more effective than lithium salts, with the advantage of reduced side effects. Promisingly, drugs to target the implicated enzyme are currently in development in other research laboratories.
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