The anti-aging effects of lithium in lymphoblastoid cell lines from patients with bipolar disorder and controls

Gabriel R. Fries, Madeline J. Zamzow, Gabriela D. Colpo, Nancy Monroy-Jaramillo, Joao Quevedo, Jodi G. Arnold, Charles L. Bowden, Consuelo Walss-Bass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Bipolar disorder (BD) has been previously associated with accelerated aging, and recent investigations have started to explore the potential anti-aging effects of BD treatments. Lithium, the most commonly used mood stabilizer, has been suggested to impact telomere length in specific populations, although its effects on other aging biomarkers, such as epigenetic aging, have never been investigated. We assessed the in vitro effects of lithium on telomere length and epigenetic aging in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from 14 patients with BD and 14 controls, all matched for age, sex, and ethnicity. Our results showed that telomere length significantly correlated with chronological age in LCLs in both groups and that BD patients have shorter telomere lengths compared to controls at baseline (vehicle treatment), confirming previous in vivo findings. Moreover, lithium treatment significantly increased telomere length in LCLs from patients, but not in controls. On the other hand, epigenetic age did not correlate with chronological age and was not shown to differ between patients and controls. In addition, lithium did not induce any changes in epigenetic age in cells from either patients or controls. Overall, our results support previous reports of an anti-aging effect of lithium based on its modulation of telomere length and suggest a different lithium effect in cells from patients and controls. Finally, we also discuss the limitations of using transformed LCLs for the study of DNA methylation mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-42
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Aging
  • Bipolar disorder
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetic age
  • Lithium
  • Telomere length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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