The common mental health drug lithium could be used to treat osteoarthritis, study a study by researchers from the UK and New Zealand.
Researchers tested the effects of lithium chloride on animal cartilage and found that it slowed the degradation associated with osteoarthritis.
“The possibility that an already widely available pharmaceutical could slow its progress is a significant step forward”
The study used bovine cartilage samples exposed to inflammatory molecules to mimic the effects of arthritis and then treated the tissue with lithium chloride.
The researchers demonstrated that the drug could be used to prevent the degradation and loss of mechanical integrity of cartilage in patients with arthritis.
They also found that, contrary to some previous reports, long-term dietary use of lithium did not cause arthritis in their sample.
The study, published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research, was carried out at Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with scientists at the University of Otago.
Professor Martin Knight, a study co-author from London, 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,” he said.