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Transl Psychiatry. 2013 May 21;3:e261. doi: 10.1038/tp.2013.37.

Long-term lithium treatment in bipolar disorder is associated with longer leukocyte telomeres.

Author information

1
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatric Research and Education, Karolinska Institutet, Clinic for Affective Disorders, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden. lina.martinsson@ki.se

Abstract

Telomere shortening is a hallmark of aging and has been associated with oxidative stress, inflammation and chronic somatic, as well as psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and depression. Additionally, antidepressants have been found to protect against telomere shortening. However, pharmacological telomere studies are lacking in bipolar disorder (BD). Therefore, the objective of this study was to explore telomere length (TL) in patients with BD in the context of lithium treatment. We determined TL by quantitative real-time PCR using peripheral blood leukocytes. Participants were outpatients diagnosed with BD type 1 or 2 (n=256) and healthy controls (n=139). Retrospective case-control and case-case study designs were applied. Lithium response (LiR) was scored using the Alda-Scale. Lithium-treated BD patients overall, as well as those on lithium monotherapy, had 35% longer telomeres compared with controls (P<0.0005, partial η(2)=0.13). TL correlated positively with lithium treatment duration of >30 months (P=0.031, R(2)=0.13) and was negatively associated with increasing number of depressive episodes (P<0.007). BD patients responding well to lithium treatment had longer telomeres than those not responding well. This is the first study to report a positive effect of long-term lithium treatment on TL. Importantly, longer TL was also associated with a better LiR in BD patients. These data suggest that lithium exerts a protective effect against telomere shortening especially when therapeutically efficacious. We hypothesize that induction of telomerase activity may be involved in LiR in BD.

PMID:
23695236
PMCID:
PMC3669924
DOI:
10.1038/tp.2013.37
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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