Investigating lithium in Alzheimer’s disease using brain imaging
Dr David Cousins
1 November 2021 - 31 October 2023
Full project name:
Imaging Lithium in Alzheimer’s Disease (ILiAD)
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and research is constantly improving our understanding of the disease and uncovering new potential treatments.
Lithium has been used for decades as a treatment for people with mood disorders. There is some evidence that it may reduce the risk of developing dementia and improves memory for these people.
This project aims to understand if lithium has beneficial effects for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists will do this using a type of brain imaging called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with specially designed techniques to show where lithium acts within the brain.
This is a pilot study, meaning it will test a new idea and provide a foundation for future long-term projects with large numbers of volunteers. It will involve a small group of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and the same number of healthy volunteers, who will receive different doses of lithium. These people will then have MRI scans to visualise where lithium is in their brains.
The aim of the study is to compare the scans of healthy people and people with Alzheimer’s disease to see if this technique can reveal the effects of lithium treatment in the brain. The hope is that this will guide dosage levels for future lithium treatment trials and will help researchers understand how easy it is for people with Alzheimer’s to take lithium to ensure it is a viable treatment option.
There is a desperate need for new Alzheimer’s treatments. Where there is evidence that an existing, widely used, safe and inexpensive drug could help, it is vital that researchers follow up on this as quickly as possible. The methods pioneered in this study will lay important groundwork for careful clinical trials, which are ultimately the only way to know if lithium could be an effective treatment for people with Alzheimer’s.
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Dementia is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It steals lives and leaves millions heartbroken. But we can change the future.