Sunday, 31 January 2016

More Sloppy Science and Autism

Steroid inhaler (left)  and  B2AR agonist Salbutamol/Ventolin  (right)

Here is a perfect example of more sloppy science being applied to autism.

The headline reads:

Anti-Asthma Drugs Taken During Pregnancy Associated With Autism Risk

When really it should read:-

Poorly Controlled Asthma Associated With Autism Risk

The US study used data from Denmark to suggest that increased use of asthma rescue inhalers by pregnant mothers was associated with increased autism in the child.  This was clearly suggesting that the drug might lead to autism.

The study looked at mothers with asthma who had a repeating prescription for a ß-2-andrenergic receptor (B2AR) agonist drug (the blue rescue inhaler).

Children with mothers who filled their B2AR agonist prescriptions from 90 days before the estimated conception date all the way until their birth date were considered to be exposed to the drug. If a prescription was not filled throughout that entire period, the children were not considered to be exposed

Asthma Control

I know a fair amount about autism, but I also know about asthma.

Almost everyone with asthma has a long term therapy to control the disease, like a steroid inhaler, and then a short term therapy to deal with flare-ups when the asthma gets out of control.

The usual short term therapy is a ß-2-andrenergic receptor agonist drug, like Salbutamol (Ventolin).  This is the blue rescue inhaler.

If your asthma is well controlled, you need your short term therapy less often.

I am forever throwing away my son’s date-expired Ventolin inhalers that are way more than half full.  I do buy new Ventolin inhalers, but that does not mean they ever get used.

Sign of asthma under control  -  throwing away date-expired 
                                                       Salbutamol/Ventolin inhalers

Sign of asthma out of control -   throwing away empty 
                                                       Salbutamol/Ventolin inhalers

So all this study showed is that the mothers with less well controlled asthma had a higher chance of having a child with autism.

Since this was a study in Denmark, where there is no significant under-class of poor people or poorly educated people (unlike the UK or USA), we can probably say that the people with the less well controlled asthma were the ones with more severe asthma.

We can then note that asthma is an auto-immune disease, like diabetes, thyroid diseases, rheumatoid arthritis etc.   It is hardly surprising that the more severe the auto immune disease in the mother the higher the chance of autism in the child.

If the mother has any kind of auto-immune disease, or, because it is genetic and epigenetic, if her parents or grandparents do/did, she has an elevated risk of a child with autism. 

If she was remarkably well informed, she could choose to mitigate this elevated risk, by minimizing the other risk factors.

Not surprisingly, gestational diabetes is also found to increases autism risk.

Just as the public is being made aware of what factors increase the risk of cancer, and has the choice of minimizing exposure to them, the same will become true for autism.  Most of the knowledge already exists for both cancer and autism.

Since people are not rushing out to become vegetarian, give up alcohol (and smoking) and ride a bicycle to work (while inhaling no pollutants, or being knocked down) cancer rates will continue to rise and, for a different set of reasons, so will autism incidence.  


Salbutamol/Ventolin does not cause autism and might just save your life.

A family history of auto-immune disease and an exacerbation of an auto-immune disease during pregnancy will increase the likelihood of a child developing autism.  But there are many other risk factors involved.

There are people writing and reviewing autism research with PhD’s, even from Ivy League Universities, who are far less bright than you might imagine.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Historical Update – What Happened to Kanner’s Subject #1

When it comes to understanding history, it usually pays to dig deep for the facts and then make your own interpretation. This is particularly true when the subject is complex and since most authors naturally have their own bias.

Kanner's subject #1, 72 years later

So I would not read books like Neurotribes, by Silberman, or In a Different Key (Donvan/ Zucker), just reading comments by Silberman is enough to show his level of knowledge.  The now awarding winning Silberman says that since, after all these years, science has not found a cure for schizophrenia, it should not bother for autism.  That would mean that since no cure has been found for HIV, we should not try and find a cure for the Ebola virus either. Great progress has been made with both viruses.

Donvan/Zucker did achieve something useful; they tracked down Kanner’s Subject # 1.

This is interesting because you can read, first hand, Kanner’s case report from 1943 and then see how things turned out 73 years later.

The point missed by most is that the people Kanner diagnosed with his type of “autism” do not fit the description most people (including me) now use for Kanner’s Autism, or Classic Autism.  You just have to read his case reports.  He includes people who were much higher functioning.

As for Asperger, some people are now pointlessly debating how much of a Nazi he was.  Since he lived in Vienna in 1943, he was unlikely to have been an avid anti-Nazi.

What word do we use to describe all those nice doctors and parents who in 1943 sent three and four year old American children with autism, or Down syndrome, to live out a very short life in an institution, then called a “Home for the feeble minded”?

As they say, those in glass houses should not throw stones.

Fitter Families for Future Firesides

Case #1 - Donald Grey Triplett

First seen by Kanner in 1938, at the age of five, and the first subject in his paper of 1943, Donald Triplett is still alive and well, aged 82, and living in Mississippi.

At the age of one he could accurately hum and sing songs.  By the age of two he knew the names of a great number of houses in his home town.  He knew the Presidents of the United States by their pictures.  Aged four, he was institutionalized.
As you can read in the link below, things turned out rather well for Donald.  His saving grace was that even though his parents put him into an institution at the age of four, they had second thoughts and a year later took him back home.  77 years later he is still there, driving his Cadillac to the golf course and back every day.

Had he stayed in “care” things most likely would not have been so rosy.

This does not mean that everybody with Classic autism can/will grow up to be an avid golfer, just that one person did.  Good for him.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

2016 To-do List

I expect many readers of this blog have a list of things to trial in 2016; I certainly do.

Monty’s older brother, codenamed Ted, did say to me recently, “I thought you said you’d be all finished with this, in a couple of years”; that was indeed the intention.  

A medicine cabinet to be proud of, but not mine

It has now been three years.  I never really intended to go so deeply into the science, and I never expected there to be so many “obvious” things un/under-investigated by researchers.

Most people diagnosed these days with “autism” are fortunate to be relatively mildly affected.  Parents of those kids likely find this blog rather shocking; how can so many pills be needed and still you want more?

Some other people also diagnosed with autism, face really big challenges, not limited to:-
     ·        Unable to talk
·        Unable to walk
·        Unable to eat (must use G tube)
·        Unable to be toilet trained
·        Unable to read
·        Unable to write
·        Have seizures 

So when asked by a teacher at school, if Monty, now aged 12, has severe autism I responded in the negative.  He does not tick any of the above boxes.

If you have more than “mild autism” it seems that there are likely many dysfunctions and the more you treat, the better the result.  A quest without an end.


Ted hates his relatives discussing his school grades and I agree with him that they are entirely his business.  We all know that typical kids vary in how smart they are and how motivated they are.  NT kids tend to get the grades they deserve.

I do break these rules with Monty, but that is because I really want to show that when a person has numerous neurological dysfunctions, as those found in classic autism, if you treat them with science (not with bleach and other nonsense), you can end up in a different, better place. 99.99999% of the world do not know this; perhaps 500 people do know.

Improving IQ will improve the person’s ability to understand and compensate for the dysfunctions that have not been treated.  

Grading academic performance at school is something we all understand and along with its limitations.  We have all been there, so let's use it.

Kids with classic autism do not get the grades they potentially deserve.  Most can be made smarter and it is easy to measure.

Before coming to my to-do list, I did receive another question about what exactly is the effect of bumetanide. 

When I collected Monty from school the other day, his assistant was proudly holding up the latest “quick fire” math test, where speed is seemingly even more important than the right answer.

So Monty, the only one with autism, came first and by a long way. 3 minutes and 35 seconds, with the runner up taking 3:56.  He got 90% correct, but that is enough to keep first place.   The previous test before Christmas he got 100%, but finished 7th out of 16 on speed.  It must be the turkey.

The questions are very simple, since you have to be very fast; but until the age of 9, and the introduction of Bumetanide, the class teacher would never have dreamt of having Monty compete at all.  Coming a distant last in everything would be disheartening, for the teacher. Monty would not have even noticed, let alone cared.

People with Classic Autism, or what Knut termed SDA (strict definition autism), are usually hopeless academically; but with Bumetanide, it does not have to be that way. 

Many people with classic autism leave school 18 years old, still at the level of single digit addition and subtraction, or perhaps up to 20.

If you reach the academic level of Grade 2 (Year 3 in the UK system), that of a typical 7 or 8 year old, by the time you “graduate” high school, you are doing above average.

So Ted is not alone in being able to get good grades.  The PolyPill is indeed worth all the bother.

To-do list

I did have to go through by supply cupboard to see what I had not got round to testing and that I still think has some potential merit.  Some things did get thrown out.

Some old ideas are worth revisiting.

·        Biotin (high dose)
This did seem to have a marginal positive effect and is both cheap and harmless. 

·        Pregnenolone (very low dose)
This also appeared to have some positive effect and should affect GABA subunit expression. High doses have been used in a Stanford clinical trial. We saw in earlier posts that allopregnanolone possesses biphasic, U-shaped actions at the GABAA receptor, meaning that a tiny dose can have the same effect as a large dose.
 I like low doses.  

Old ideas worth developing:-

·        Miyairi 588 bacteria, but at higher doses

This is the bacteria used as a probiotic in Japan for humans, since the 1940s.  It is also added to animal feed to avoid inflammatory disease and so produce healthier animals.

The science showed that it should be helpful to raise Butyrate levels.  It can be achieved directly via supplementation, with sodium butyrate, and indirectly by adding a butyrate-producing bacteria, such as Clostridium Butyricum or Miyari 588.

I have been using a tiny dose of Miyari 588 for months.  It achieves what it is sold for in Japan, in that it reduces gas, which is the only obvious negative side effect of Monty’s Polypill, other than diuresis.

The positive side effect of the Polypill is near perfect asthma control.  Asthma is an auto-immune/inflammatory disease, highly comorbid with autism. 

The effect of Miyari 588 is reversible because this bacteria cannot survive long in the intestines, which is why you have to take it every day.  It crowds out some of the other bacteria in the intestines, but they will soon grow back.

New ideas already in this blog:-

·        Diamox

I did suggest on several occasions that it might be possible to get a “Bumetanide plus” effect by adding Diamox.

Diamox (Acetazolamide) is another diuretic and it is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor

Acetazolamide is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, hence causing the accumulation of carbonic acid Carbonic anhydrase is an enzyme found in red blood cells that catalyses the following reaction:

hence lowering blood pH, by means of the following reaction that carbonic acid undergoes:

The mechanism of diuresis involves the proximal tubule of the kidney. The enzyme carbonic anhydrase is found here, allowing the reabsorption of bicarbonate, sodium, and chloride. By inhibiting this enzyme, these ions are excreted, along with excess water, lowering blood pressure, intracranial pressure, and intraocular pressure. By excreting bicarbonate, the blood becomes acidic, causing compensatory hyperventilation, increasing levels of oxygen and decreasing levels of carbon dioxide in the blood

This change in bicarbonate will also affect the AE3 and NDAE exchangers.

As you will see in the figure below the regulation of bicarbonate HCO3- and pH is directly connected to chloride Cl- homeostasis.  This means that via AE3 and NDAE you can affect intracellular chloride levels by change the level of HCO3-

In turns this means that Diamox (Acetazolamide) really should have an effect on the level of intracellular chloride.

This in turn suggested to me that Diamox could augment the effect that bumetanide has on NKCC1.

 In the case that Bumetanide can lower intracellular chloride, but not to the optimal level to correct the GABA dysfunction, Diamox might be able to lower chloride levels a little further so further shifting GABA to inhibitory.

Neuronal activity results in significant pH shifts in neurons, glia, and interstitial space. Several transport mechanisms are involved in the fine-tuning and regulation of extra- and intracellular pH. The sodium-independent electroneutral anion exchangers (AEs) exchange intracellular bicarbonate for extracellular chloride and thereby lower the intracellular pH. Recently, a significant association was found with the variant Ala867Asp of the anion exchanger AE3, which is predominantly expressed in brain and heart, in a large cohort of patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy. To analyze a possible involvement of AE3 dysfunction in the pathogenesis of seizures, we generated an AE3-knockout mouse model by targeted disruption of Slc4a3. AE3-knockout mice were apparently healthy, and neither displayed gross histological and behavioral abnormalities nor spontaneous seizures or spike wave complexes in electrocorticograms. 

After only a couple of days of Diamox, it is pretty clear that there is indeed a “bumetanide plus” effect.  So the same changes that were noted when starting bumetanide appear again.

A promising start to 2016.

·        Ponstan

This is the NSAID that is also suggested to be useful to affect the ion channels expressed by the genes ANO 2/4/7 & KCNMA1.  We saw in this post

where Knut highlighted that Fenamates act as CaCC inhibitors and also stimulate BKCa channel activity.  Ponstan is a Fenamate.

·        Vitamin A

This was Maja’s discovery, that in some people vitamin A will stimulate oxytocin, via upregulation of CD38.

·        Zinc

Zinc should affect GABA, particularly in immature neurons.  Zinc homeostasis is disturbed in some autism and perhaps, in some people, a small dose of zinc may actually have a positive effect.  Simple to check.

Clioquinol, the drug that shifts zinc to the “right” place, is not without risks.

·        Picamilon

Once the GABA switch has been repaired, it may be time for a little extra GABA.  GABA should not be able to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB), but in the form of Picamilion, it does cross the BBB.

·        Inositol

This it naturally produced in the body from glucose and used to be known as vitamin B8.  In some people Inositol reduces OCD and stereotypy.  Simple to check.

·        Montelukast

This is an asthma drug, considered very safe in children, that Dr Kelley (formerly of Johns Hopkins and likely the cleverest autism clinician)  uses in children with AMD, as a short term therapy, when they are sick and, very interestingly, before immunizations.  This is to avoid further mitochondrial damage.  Montelukast is a leukotriene receptor antagonist (LTRA) used for the maintenance treatment of asthma and to relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Dr Kelley also uses Ibuprofen as a short term therapy to counter the effects of increased cytokine production.  Montelukast is more potent and has different side effects, meaning it might be a better choice than ibuprofen for some people.

Ibuprofen may be OTC, but, more than very occasional use, can cause side effects in many people.  These side effects are caused by NSAIDs also being COX-2 inhibitors, which leads to stomach and intestinal adverse reactions.

Since I have determined that in the case of autism I deal with, the surge in cytokines like IL6 causes behavioral regression, Montelukast might be a good alternative to Ibuprofen to treat some types of autism flare.  

So a new addition to the autism flare-up toolkit, I hope.


Ideas not yet in this blog:-

·        Curcumin

Curcumin, and particularly some of the substances within it, have been shown to have very interesting autism-relevant effects, particularly in vitro (in test tubes).  Whether taking curcumin orally, in reasonable doses, produces any of these effects in humans is a big question.  Many such substances like luteolin and resveratrol fail to meet expectations in humans, due to poor bioavailability.

There are various ways to improve the bioavailability of curcumin, so it seems worth investigating.

·        5-loxin

Frankincense has been used for 5,000 years.  More recently, two thousand years ago, three wise men did bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia.  Boswellia is used for inflammatory conditions like arthritis in a similar way to curcumin.

There are six boswellic acids, one is most active. This fraction is called AKBA. 5-Loxin is a boswellia supplement claiming to deliver a high standardized level of AKBA.

5-Loxin does seem to help some people with arthritis, but does it have any benefit for the pro-inflammatory aspects found in some autism?  I am not expecting much, but you never know.

Ideas suggested to me by others, that look interesting:-

·        Mint/Menthol

This is Natasa’s discovery and there is evidence to show that Menthol does indeed affect GABAA receptors.

These results suggest that menthol positively modulates both synaptic and extrasynaptic populations of GABAA receptors in native PAG neurons. The development of agents that potentiate GABAA-mediated tonic currents and phasic IPSCs in a manner similar to menthol could provide a basis for novel GABAA-related pharmacotherapies.

·        NIAGEN / Nicotinamide Riboside

This was highlighted by Tyler and is another potential therapy for oxidative stress.  Not as cheap as peppermint, but definitely interesting, perhaps particularly for those with autism and mitochondrial dysfunction.

Also note that there are odd recurring links between some autism and obesity. This is not the first anti-obesity therapy that potentially has some benefit for autism.

As NAD+ is a rate-limiting cosubstrate for the sirtuin enzymes, its modulation is emerging as a valuable tool to regulate sirtuin function and, consequently, oxidative metabolism. In line with this premise, decreased activity of PARP-1 or CD38—both NAD+ consumers—increases NAD+ bioavailability, resulting in SIRT1 activation and protection against metabolic disease. Here we evaluated whether similar effects could be achieved by increasing the supply of nicotinamide riboside (NR), a recently described natural NAD+ precursor with the ability to increase NAD+ levels, Sir2-dependent gene silencing, and replicative life span in yeast. We show that NR supplementation in mammalian cells and mouse tissues increases NAD+ levels and activates SIRT1 and SIRT3, culminating in enhanced oxidative metabolism and protection against high-fat diet-induced metabolic abnormalities. Consequently, our results indicate that the natural vitamin NR could be used as a nutritional supplement to ameliorate metabolic and age-related disorders characterized by defective mitochondrial function.

Low-grade chronic inflammation (metaflammation) is a major contributing factor for the onset and development of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is present in milk and beer, is a functional vitamin B3 having advantageous effects on metabolic regulation. However, the anti-inflammatory capacity of NR is unknown. This study evaluated whether NR modulates hepatic nucleotide binding and oligomerization domain-like receptor family, pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome. Male, 8-week-old KK/HlJ mice were allocated to the control or NR group. NR (100 mg/kg/day) or vehicle (phosphate-buffered saline) was administrated by an osmotic pump for 7 days. Glucose control, lipid profiles, NLRP3 inflammasome, and inflammation markers were analyzed, and structural and histological analyses were conducted. NR treatment did not affect body weight gain, food intake, and liver function. Glucose control based on the oral glucose tolerance test and levels of serum insulin and adiponectin was improved by NR treatment. Among tested lipid profiles, NR lowered the total cholesterol concentration in the liver. Histological and structural analysis by hematoxylin and eosin staining and transmission electron microscopy, respectively, showed that NR rescued the disrupted cellular integrity of the mitochondria and nucleus in the livers of obese and diabetic KK mice. In addition, NR treatment significantly improved hepatic proinflammatory markers, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin (IL)-6, and IL-1. These ameliorations were accompanied by significant shifts of NLRP3 inflammasome components (NLRP3, ASC, and caspase1). These results demonstrate that NR attenuates hepatic metaflammation by modulating the NLRP3 inflammasome




An apparently crazy idea of my own, but actually serious:-

·        Propolis tincture, without the propolis

The BIO 30 Propolis from New Zealand is a (mild) PAK1 inhibitor.  One reader is convinced of its cognitive enhancing effects in autism .  I also think it had an effect, but in our case not as potent as that reader.  Now I am wondering what was it that produced this effect. 

Most propolis is made as a tincture with ethanol.  Propolis is not soluble in water.  They typically use 70% ethanol to make propolis tincture.  “Non-alcoholic” tinctures use glycol.

In the last post we saw ethanol has pronounced effects on several GABAA receptor subunits, mainly delta but also alpha, including possibly down regulating alpha 5.

So was it the propolis, or the ethanol that has the effect?

Propolis tincture is either made with ethanol (grain alcohol) or if it is “alcohol free” they use propylene glycolPropylene glycol actually is a food ingredient but it is also used to de-ice aircraft in winter.  Ethylene glycol is the antifreeze in your car and you would not want to drink that.

Compared to ethanol, glycol can dissolve less propolis, 

A quick check of school chemistry reminds us that if it is an –ol , it’s an alcohol.

·        Alcohols have at least one hydroxyl group
·        Diols have two hydroxyl groups

Propylene glycol is  C3H8Oand as you can see below it has two hydroxyl groups (the – OH), so it is both a diol and an alcohol. 

So your Propolis tincture can be ethanol-free, but it cannot be alcohol-free.  Someone might point that out to the supplement makers.

It also should be noted that propylene glycol has known effects on GABA very similar to ethanol.

This suggests that the users of ethanol-free BIO30 may also be seeing responses unrelated to propolis.

Propylene glycol even has an E-number, it is E1520.  It is cheap and they even sell it on Amazon.

Food grade ethanol is normally not sold to the public.

In lay terms, ethanol and alcohol are interchangeable, so one corner of the supermarket contains food grade ethanol, with some impurities.

Japanese research suggests that these impurities are much more potent than ethanol in modulating GABA receptors.  It is the fragrant compounds that accumulate over the years on wooden barrels that cause this effect.

The twenty drops of propolis suggested to me by the Japanese PAK1 researcher/doctor contained about 1ml of ethanol.  It seems that to get an effect on GABA similar to this amount of ethanol would require a much smaller amount to well-aged Japanese whiskey.

So if someone over 18 responds well to twenty drops of BIO 30 propolis, it would helpful if they could compare the effect with 1ml of Propylene glycol (E1520), 1ml of ethanol, if they find it, and with a few drops of well-aged whiskey.