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Lithium May Help Treat Acute Kidney Injury

Update Date: Jan 10, 2014 04:47 PM EST

Mood stabilizer drugs like lithium may help treat acute kidney injury, according to a new study.

Researchers said the findings are important because there are no effective therapies for acute kidney injury.

Acute kidney injury is becoming increasing prevalent. It is a potentially serious condition that can happen after trauma, sepsis, major surgery or exposure to drugs that are toxic to the kidneys. The condition afflicts about 5 percent of all hospitalized patients and approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of patients in intensive care units.

Researchers explain that glycogen synthase kinase (GSK) 3β is an enzyme that plays a major role in the development of acute kidney injury. However, this enzyme can be blocked using inhibitors like small chemical compounds and lithium.

Lithium is a mood stabilizer used to treat bipolar affective disorders. Lead researchers  Hui Bao, MD, PhD, Rujun Gong, MD, PhD (Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine) found that a single dose of lithium following acute kidney injury blocks GSK3β in injured kidneys, promotes kidney repair, and accelerates the recovery of kidney function in mice.

"Our work suggests that lithium might represent a novel, pragmatic, and affordable therapy to improve kidney recovery after AKI," Gong said in a news release.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN)

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