Episode 153

Dr. De-Maw Chuang, a Scientist Emeritus at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has spent a significant portion of his career looking at the effects of Lithium on the human brain.  Long known to have therapeutic applications — as well as the potential for overdose and toxicity — Lithium is another example of the rule “the dose makes the medicine.”

However, despite its long medical history, there remain many intriguing possibilities for Lithium’s use in medical applications — even those related to general well-being, rather than treatment of a pathology.

Little Atom, Big Questions

Among the big questions: Could Lithium be a partial preventative treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease? Studies have shown a decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s in Bipolar Disorder patients who took Lithium, compared to those who used other treatments.  The question remains, though: Would this finding among Bipolar patients translate to humanity in general?

Unfortunately, Lithium’s status as an unpatentable element — literally one of the simplest compounds in the universe (atomic number: 3) — makes it a less-than-appealing study subject for big pharma.  Massive-scale human trials would be needed to make Lithium an accepted therapy for new conditions…but without something to patent (and profit from), there is no economic incentive to do so.

Lithium: The Promise and the Peril

Despite its proven usefulness in certain domains, Lithium has its downsides: Not all people respond positively to it, and some people are acutely allergic.  Giving Lithium to these people results in swelling tissues, a very bad rash, nausea, vomiting… Nothing fun.

However, at low doses, Lithium has been seen to provide neuroprotection, mood stabilization, and possibly even reduced risk of mortality for long-term users.

Join Dr. De-Maw Chuang to learn about the history, the knowns, and the lingering unknowns of this paradoxical and tantalizing element.

PS:  Jesse will be at the 2016 Biohacker Conference in Helsinki later this month!
Details coming soon…


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Written by Jesse Lawler
Jesse Lawler is a technologist, health nut, entrepreneur, and "one whose power switch defaults to On."  He created Smart Drug Smarts to learn how to make his brain do even more, and is greatly pleased to now see his little baby Frankenstein toddling around and helping others.  Jesse tweets about personal optimization, tech, and other stuff he finds interesting at @Lawlerpalooza.