USF Researchers Discover Potential New Therapy For Psychological Disorders

Researchers at USF Health may have found a more viable treatment for patients with neuropsychiatric illnesses, such as bipolar disorder.

Currently, FDA-approved lithium carbonate is one of the oldest and most widely used drugs to treat these illnesses. The drug, however, comes with a major drawback -- toxicity. There are alternatives on the market, but none have the same efficacy without the side effects, which include hand tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, weight gain and thyroid problems.

A team of researchers at the University of South Florida recently discovered a previously untested lithium salicylate (an alternative salt form) while working on a collaborative endeavor with a chemistry professor. The group used crystal engineering techniques to change the component of the new solid forms of lithium and published a salicylate containing co-crystal. This prompted researcher Adam Smith to wonder what other lithium salts could do.

The downside to current lithium therapy is that it’s eliminated very rapidly from the body. Therefore, patients have to take it once or twice daily to achieve optimum absorption levels, leading to potential toxicity. The new therapy has the potential to stay in the body for up to 48 hours, leading to a decrease in the number of pills taken. By modifying the dosing regiment, researchers hope to improve patient compliance and reduce the potential for side effects.

"We hope that these findings lead to a more effective lithium therapy,"says Adam Smith, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at USF Health.

Animals trials have shown promise thus far. Next steps are to conduct additional animal trials that more closely mimic reality with multiple doses and then begin human trials.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Adam Smith, PhD., USF Health

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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