lithium chloride for osteoarthritis

New research published in the Journal of Orthopedic Research this month reports on the potential for lithium chloride to be used as a treatment for osteoarthritis.

Lithium chloride is best known as a mood stabilizer, used for the treatment of bi-polar disorder. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Otago, New Zealand, have been investigating the benefits of lithium chloride for osteoarthritis. Using experimental models of osteoarthritis the researchers investigated the long-term effects of dietary lithium on cartilage health in rats. The researchers were able to achieve therapeutic levels of lithium in the blood of rats who were fed a high lithium diet. This high lithium diet did not negatively affect joint health in the rats, who were maintained on the diet for a total of 9 months.

In an experimental model of cartilage degradation, the researchers were able to demonstrate that lithium inhibits cartilage degradation, preventing mechanical deterioration, by inhibiting signaling of the pro-inflammatory molecule, IL-1b.

The researchers are the first to show that lithium is able to prevent the mechanical degradation of articular cartilage mediated by the inflammatory molecule, IL-1b. These results are promising, not only demonstrating safety of dietary lithium, but also the ability to prevent damage to cartilage that is associated with osteoarthritis.

The researchers stress, however, that use of lithium should be carefully monitored for potential negative side effects, and that future studies should aim to decipher the safest and most effective ways to use lithium as a treatment for osteoarthritis.


Thompson, CL, Yasmin H, Varone, A, Wiles, A, Poole, CA, Knight, MM. “Lithium chloride prevents interleukin- 1β induced cartilage degradation and loss of mechanical properties” Journal of Orthopedic Research, DOI: 10.1002/jor.22913.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at





Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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