Analysis on in vitro effect of lithium on telomere length in lymphoblastoid cell lines from bipolar disorder patients with different clinical response to long-term lithium treatment

Hum Genomics. 2022 Oct 17;16(1):45. doi: 10.1186/s40246-022-00418-8.


Background: It has been suggested that bipolar disorder (BD) is associated with clinical and biological features of accelerated aging. In our previous studies, we showed that long-term lithium treatment was correlated with longer leukocyte telomere length (LTL) in BD patients. A recent study explored the role of TL in BD using patients-derived lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs), showing that baseline TL was shorter in BD compared to controls and that lithium in vitro increased TL but only in BD. Here, we used the same cell system (LCLs) to explore if a 7-day treatment protocol with lithium chloride (LiCl) 1 mM was able to highlight differences in TL between BD patients clinically responders (Li-R; n = 15) or non-responders (Li-NR; n = 15) to lithium, and if BD differed from non-psychiatric controls (HC; n = 15).

Results: There was no difference in TL between BD patients and HC. Moreover, LiCl did not influence TL in the overall sample, and there was no difference between diagnostic or clinical response groups. Likewise, LiCl did not affect TL in neural precursor cells from healthy donors.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a 7-day lithium treatment protocol and the use of LCLs might not represent a suitable approach to deepen our understanding on the role of altered telomere dynamics in BD as previously suggested by studies in vivo.

Keywords: Accelerated aging; Aging; Bipolar disorder; Cellular systems; In vitro; Lithium; Lymphoblastoid cell liens; Mood disorders; Neural precursors; Telomeres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Bipolar Disorder* / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Lithium / pharmacology
  • Lithium / therapeutic use
  • Lithium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Lithium Chloride / therapeutic use
  • Lithium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Lithium Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Neural Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Telomere / genetics


  • Lithium Compounds
  • Lithium
  • Lithium Chloride