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Lithium Monitor Could Improve Drug Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

In a laboratory proof of concept study — pilot research that shows a drug or project is likely to succeed — investigators have created a wearable device that can detect an individual’s lithium drug level.

Lithium is one of the most widely used and studied medications for treating bipolar disorder. It may also help relieve or prevent bipolar depression and can significantly reduce suicide risk.

It is estimated that bipolar disorder affects one in 100 people and lithium remains the most effective long-term therapy for the condition. It is incredibly important to monitor lithium intake as it has a narrow therapeutic range and can be toxic once levels elevate above it.

University of Surrey researchers believe the development of a wearable device which can detect and  signal if high levels of lithium are present can be a life changer for people who suffer from bipolar and depression.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Surrey, in collaboration with the University of Bath, detail how they developing extraction fibers to draw lithium from under the skin. They combined lithium extraction with a lithium sensor fiber and a reference fiber to create a miniaturized and flexible potentiometric cell. Therefore, a wearable monitor that can be used by patients without the need to be “primed” in solution.

Investigator demonstrated that their monitor was able to detect lithium. And, through their lab tests, found that their device could also determine the lithium concentration levels and potentially give a warning signal that high levels had been reached.

The team is now looking to understand and investigate whether it is possible for these devices to be sensitive enough to detect extremely narrow therapeutic ranges of lithium.

Many physical wearable sensors have been developed to monitor people’s temperature, heart rate and respiration rate and, while wearable glucose monitors are currently on the market, there are few other commercial wearable chemical sensors that exist.

It is believed that using wearable chemical sensors at home, instead of a traditional clinical setting, for screening or follow up care would help to reduce the burden on health professional’s time.

Dr. Carol Crean, Senior Lecturer in Physical and Material Chemistry at the University of Surrey, remarks:

“We are incredibly excited by the potential of this proof-of-concept study, which has shown that wearable fiber-based lithium sensors are viable and potentially life changing for the many living with bipolar disorder. Importantly, these devices could also save valuable time for health professionals because most of the monitoring of the therapeutic drug can be done at the patient’s convenience.”

Source: University of Surrey

Lithium Monitor Could Improve Drug Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Lithium Monitor Could Improve Drug Treatment for Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 14 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
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