PhotoAches and pains are bound to develop in each of us as we age, but some people have a harder time with them than others. Arthritis can be agonizing for those who have to endure it, but recent research conducted at Queen Mary University of London has found that a common mental health drug may help prevent this condition.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis out there. It affects millions of people around the world, and occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones degrade, often resulting in intense pain and lack of mobility. This process usually happens over a long period of time, which is why osteoarthritis is seen mostly in people who are 40 or older.

There are currently no guaranteed treatments for osteoarthritis, but researchers have found that lithium chloride, which has been used to treat patients with mental health problems, can actually prevent the degradation of these at-risk cartilage areas.

Slowing arthritic development

Scientists from Queen Mary University and the University of Otago in New Zealand collaborated in order to see how beneficial the compound could be. They took cartilage samples from cows and exposed them to inflammatory molecules in order to simulate arthritic progression. After treating these areas with lithium chloride, they noticed that the cartilage was not degrading as quickly.

There has been a lot of controversy over lithium’s effect on the body, so further testing will be required before humans will be able to utilize it. Figuring out a safe dosage will be important for researchers to focus on going forward.

“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,” said Professor Martin Knight, who co-authored the study.

The full study has been published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research.  

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