Lithium Chloride Blunts Brain Damage Tied To Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A drug used to treat aggression and bipolar disease, a single dose of lithium chloride block the sleep disturbances, memory loss, and learning problems tied to fetal alcohol syndrome, new trials in mice appear. Published in the journal Neuroscience online Nov. 26, and led by scientists at NYU School of Medicine, the new examination found that giving the medication to newborn mice 15 minutes after “binge” alcohol consumption phase out the hyperactivity and sleep disturbances seen when rodents exposed to alcohol became adults. Also, the scientists report, lithium chloride-treated mice were substantially less prone to demonstrate the 25 percent drop in memory and subjective test scores were seen in untreated mice given a similar amount of liquor.

Co-senior study investigator Donald Wilson, Ph.D. says, “Our research demonstrated that lithium chloride prevented many of the damaging neurological effects of alcohol abuse on the as yet developing brain, particularly the effect on the parts of the brain controlling sleep”. For calculating the effect on human fetal development, the mice brains achieve developmental milestones after birth that are similar to those in different mammals, including humans, mice given alcohol soon after birth are a good model.

It is too early to propose lithium chloride as a treatment or preventive treatment for fetal alcohol syndrome. The drug is “likely far too risky for pregnant mothers,” with known organ toxicities, cautions Wilson, a professor at NYU Langone Health. Additionally, trials would need to continue under strict medical supervision to ensure the safety of mothers and children.

A more likely future treatment, says co-senior study investigator Mariko Saito, Ph.D., would be one that takes advantage of chemistry related to the activity of lithium chloride, yet with fewer side effects. Saito, a research assistant professor at NYU Langone says, “Lithium chloride is known to block many pathways that prompt brain cell death while elevating others that lead to survival, similar to brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF”.

Additionally, experiments are required, she says, to determine whether chemicals that stimulate BDNF production likewise blunt the impacts of alcohol abuse in newborn mammals. Co-lead study investigator Monica Lewin, MS, a doctoral student at NYU Langone says, of equivalent significance, the research brings researchers closer to determining to fix sleep issues tied alcohol syndrome alone is key to countering the other developmental impacts tied to alcohol abuse.

The key findings from the studies were that mice given lithium chloride after consuming alcohol and mice that never consumed alcohol had the same duration of undisrupted sleep of around 10 hours per day, while untreated mice given alcohol woke up as many as 50 times each hour. Sleep disturbances in animals and humans have for some time been connected to cognitive and emotional damage. Recent work by a same group of scientists demonstrated that such disturbances in sleep were likewise a sign of fetal alcohol syndrome, both in animal models and in humans. Mice that slept better and longer, in the case of suffering from alcohol abuse or not, had better brain function than those that slept more ineffectively.

In the United States, the brain damage is related to fetal alcohol syndrome is believed to afflict one of every 33 newborns and it occurs when the developing up fetus’ mother drinks a lot of alcohol. The next plans to research by Wilson and his team, whether lithium chloride can blunt other forms of neurological damage, for example, that resulting from trauma and stroke, both of which can kill large groups of brain cells.


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