Lithium may be useful in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease in individuals at risk of presenile familial Alzheimer's disease.Med Hypotheses. 2008 Dec; 71(6):948-51.MH
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Presenile familial AD (FAD) and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (SAD) have identical brain lesions, containing senile plaques with beta-amyloid (Abeta) peptide and neurofibrillary tangles formed by hyperphosphorylation of a microtubule-associated protein known as tau. However, FAD and SAD differ in onset and genetic transmission. Unlike SAD, presenile FAD is transmitted as a pure autosomal dominant trait. The authors suggest that lithium could be used for AD prevention, particularly in individuals at risk of presenile FAD, which has early onset. Evidence supporting this hypothesis suggests that lithium decreases Abeta peptide production and inhibits the activity of glycogen synthase kinase-3 which induces aggregation of tau protein into tangles, and tau hyperphosphorylation. Prevalence of AD is lower in patients with chronic lithium treatment, which also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor activity, so might prevent onset in patients at risk for AD. Several considerations are suggested for prevention trials: the effect of lithium could be evaluated in young animal models that express presenile FAD mutant genes; the time, dose, duration and monitoring of lithium therapy are considered; early phenotypes could be monitored for treatment effect; and some other agents, like valproic acid, could also be candidates for prevention.