Showing posts with label Antihistamine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antihistamine. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

More Failed Autism Trials and (28 million) thoughts as to why

Two autism therapies mentioned in this blog have recently failed in their clinical trials.

The selective mGluR5 antagonist mavoglurant failed in two trials funded by Roche and Coronado Biosciences threw in the towel with its Trichuris suis ova (“TSO”) program.  TSO are parasites that are introduced to the gut to modify the immune response, they are thought to help conditions like ulcerative colitis and some autism.

"Coronado Biosciences (NASDAQ: CNDO) has decided to no longer pursue the development of its Trichuris suis ova (“TSO”) program. The Company is terminating all on-going TSO trials, including the Company’s Phase 2A clinical trial of TSO in pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorder. A preliminary analysis of data from this trial failed to demonstrate any signal of activity."

The original user of TSO in autism documented his case here:-

It has been a long time since the father updated his site. Does he still give TSO to his son?

This adds to a growing list of very expensive failures.

The good news is that people are beginning to wonder why these, and all the previous trials, "failed".  Perhaps some were not failures, rather narrowly selective successes.  A new initiative is underway called Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials to try to develop more objective measures both for diagnosing autism in young children and for tracking changes.

"The Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) is a multicenter research study based at Yale that spans Duke University, Boston Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles. The aim of the consortium is to develop reliable and objective measurements of social function and communication in people with autism."

NIH provides $28M to study autism biomarkers via its Biomarkers Consortium

That is a lot of money.

I wish them well.

I do not think they fully realize the task facing them.  There are hundreds of “autisms” and many are dynamic, so changing over time.  Even if you find a responder to a therapy, if you tested the same person six months later he might not respond positively. 

It is highly unlikely that any single therapy can target all the symptoms in any case of autism.  So multiple therapies will be needed.

For many people, autism is a moving target, any kind of allergy, tooth issue or other inflammation could cause a false negative.

Single Gene vs Idiopathic Autism

It should be much easier to develop treatment for single gene autisms, like Fragile X, than for the idiopathic (“we have no clue what causes it”) autisms.  The above trials by Roche were in Fragile-X, where at least you know that all the subjects in the trial started with the same single gene dysfunction. 

But do they have other genetic/epigenetic dysfunctions?  Do they all have the same downstream dysfunctions? 

Fragile X is caused by a lack of the FRMP protein, perhaps the only time to correct this is very early in life.  Thereafter you have the downstream consequences, some of which overlap with ideopathic autism, some of these may well be treatable. 

 Autism Case Reports and Anecdotal Evidence

A good source of information remains published case reports.  These are documented pieces of anecdotal evidence showing what appeared to help a particular person. Here is one highlighted recently by Agnieszka, a reader of this blog.

Beta-Lactam Antibiotics as A Possible Novel Therapy for Managing Epilepsy and Autism, A Case Report and Review of Literature

The index patient is a 9 year old boy with autism spectrum disorder diagnosed according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). He suffered from generalized tonic-clonic epilepsy from age 4. He had taken multiple different medications such as phenobarbital, sodium valporate, and carbamazepine with sufficient dosages and durations without favorable control of his epilepsy. According to his parents’ reports, the patient took cefixime 200mg/day to control diarrhea about 2 years ago. The seizure episodes were dramatically decreased 3 days after starting the medication while the there was no change in his anti-epileptic medication regime. The seizure episodes were controlled for about 5 months, after which the number of seizure episodes again increased. His highly educated parents administered cefixime 200mg/day to control seizure again. They reported that seizure attacks were controlled markedly after taking cefixime for three days. The patient was not febrile while the medication trials were administered. Both parents reported that they repeated this trial for several times to control the seizure episodes in the recent years. The epilepsy was controlled in all of the trials after taking cefixime for 3 to 5 days. Then, they discontinued cefixime after 7 days. They reported that there was a marked decreased in the number of seizure attacks as well as aggressive behaviors.

You cannot read too much into any one case report, other than to note how many totally unrelated interventions seem to benefit unique cases of autism.  This only goes to show that totally unrelated dysfunctions can manifest themselves as “autism”.

If you grouped all the anecdotal evidence together you would have some interesting reading.  If someone actually followed up on these anecdotes and did some additional investigation on each case we might learn very much more.

Previous Autism Clinical Trials

When I read the original clinical trials of NAC and Bumetanide in Autism, the results seemed good enough to me to warrant my own trial.

I do not see why there has not yet been a follow up of Stanford’s trial of NAC.  There was a patent (below) and then nothing.  It clearly works in many people, but most clinicians will not prescribe it until it is “evidence based”.  Those granted the patent should then go and collect some more evidence.

Bumetanide has also been patented for autism and the next stage of trials will follow, we are informed.

I will be interested to see whether the phase 3 trials are solid enough to convince mainstream clinicians to actually prescribe it.  "A diuretic for autism, come on, be serious!"

Nothing would surprise me.

Funding for Future Trials

It would be a bold person who invested any profit-seeking capital in autism trials, but they keep coming forward.  Here is another new one, OV101 from start-up Ovid.

The only reliable source is public money and philanthropy.

It looks like the US NIH (National Institutes of Health) still has deep pockets and Jim Simons keeps backing his Foundation.


Roche may not have succeeded with their mGLuR5 drug, mavoglurant, but mGluR5 remains a target for treating schizophrenia and autism

Receptors in brain linked to schizophrenia, autism

Disruption of mGluR5 in parvalbumin-positive interneurons induces corefeatures of neurodevelopmental disorders

What would a successful Autism Trial look like?

Given the heterogeneous nature of autism, even a really effective drug might not look so good in the data.  Very specific drugs that counter the disorders where there can be both hypo and hyper, will come out with some good responders, some with no effect and a sizable number with a bad effect; so on average not so good.

Drugs that affect the most common down stream effect, oxidative stress, would come out best.  So I the results Hardan obtained in his Stanford trial of NAC will be as good as it gets.  Those results were enough for me, but not so impressive to many.

Now reconsider a long forgotten trial of an anti-depressant drug, developed from a first generation antihistamine.

This trial has a rather eclectic mix of 26 subjects, but 36% were responders, either much improved or very much improved in a wide variety of symptoms including aggression, self-injury, irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. However the authors judge the trial drug as: 

  "Mirtazapine was well tolerated but showed only modest effectiveness for treating the associated symptoms of autistic disorder" 

What were they hoping for ?



The aim of this study was to conduct a naturalistic, open-label examination of the efficacy and tolerability of mirtazapine (a medication with both serotonergic and noradrenergic properties) in the treatment of associated symptoms of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs).

Twenty-six subjects (5 females, 21 males; ages 3.8 to 23.5 years; mean age 10.1 +/- 4.8 years) with PDDs (20 with autistic disorder, 1 with Asperger's disorder, 1 with Rett's disorder, and 4 with PDDs not otherwise specified were treated with open-label mirtazapine (dose range, 7.5-45 mg daily; mean 30.3 +/- 12.6 mg daily). Twenty had comorbid mental retardation, and 17 were taking concomitant psychotropic medications. At endpoint, subjects' primary caregivers were interviewed using the Clinical Global Impressions (CGI) scale, the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, and a side-effect checklist.


Twenty-five of 26 subjects completed at least 4 weeks of treatment (mean 150 +/- 103 days). Nine of 26 subjects (34.6%) were judged responders ("much improved" or "very much improved" on the CGI) based on improvement in a variety of symptoms including aggression, self-injury, irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Mirtazapine did not improve core symptoms of social or communication impairment. Adverse effects were minimal and included increased appetite, irritability, and transient sedation.


Mirtazapine was well tolerated but showed only modest effectiveness for treating the associated symptoms of autistic disorder and other PDDs.

I think that was a successful trial that should have been followed up, rather then being forgotten.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Central histamine (dys)function, antidepressants, appetite, autism and behavior

One day last week Monty, aged 12 with ASD, was watching an old Tom and Jerry DVD.  These DVDs, along with the other action-packed ones, once got hidden away because they drove Monty wild; now they do not.

This is what I was doing while Tom was chasing                                                                         Jerry.

I received another interesting comment from a reader who found a small dose of an antidepressant had a very positive effect on his 9 year old daughter:-

“My daughter (9, ASD) recently started on a very small dose of Remeron, in an effort to increase weight and as a bonus, hopefully improve sleep. It has done both. It also had an immediate unexpected but delightful side effect of improved social skills, more fluent speech and increased amount of conversation. The first day she tried it she made friends with random children in the park, and they had a discussion about how they would design their dream playground. (DD said she would invent and upside down slide, where you start at the bottom and slide up.) It has been amazing for her (so far.)  ”

In most families it is the parents who take the antidepressants.

I recalled that one class of antidepressant was actually developed from an old antihistamine drug, tricyclic antidepressants.

Remeron, otherwise known as Mirtazapine, is indeed a tricyclic antidepressant.

Not only is Remeron, in effect, a first generation antihistamine, i.e. one that was not designed to stay outside the blood brain barrier, but it is a rather potent one.

Within the brain Remeron/Mirtazapine:-

HR occupancy (HRO) of mirtazapine reached 80-90 % in the cerebral neocortex

Histamine H receptor occupancy by the new-generation antidepressants fluvoxamine and mirtazapine: a positron emission tomography study in healthy volunteers.

This means that 80-90% of the type 1 histamine receptors in that part of the brain are blocked from action.

Histamine Receptors and the Blood Brain Barrier

There were several earlier posts in this blog regarding histamine.

There are four known types of histamine receptors H1, H2, H3 and H4.

In one way or the other, all four are likely relevant to autism.  Drugs are not yet available for H4.  H3 therapies are likely to improve cognitive function in some. H4 appears to play a role in the overexpression of mast cells in allergic tissues.  So those with severe mast cell issues should watch the H4 drug pipeline.

Histamine H4 Receptor Mediates Chemotaxis and Calcium Mobilization of Mast Cells

An important point to remember is that while histamine does not cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB), H1 antihistamines do cross, including the ones designed not to cross.

All antihistamines cross blood-brain barrier

Within the brain, histamine functions as a neurotransmitter, but it is not the same histamine as that released by mast cells in your nose, when you have hay fever.  Histamine is also produced inside the brain.

H3 receptors in the brain modulate the release of histamine.  Histamine release in the brain triggers secondary release of excitatory neurotransmitters such as glutamate and acetylcholine via stimulation of H1 receptors in the cerebral cortex. Consequently, unlike the H1 antagonist antihistamines which are sedating, H3 antagonists have stimulant and nootropic effects, and are being researched as potential drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and also for ADHD.

H1 agonists should increase appetite and H3 agonists should reduce appetite.  So one day do not be surprised to read about wonder H3 slimming pills.

Outside the brain (CNS) all four types of receptor are found and have specific functions.

H1 receptors modulate circadian rhythm (sleep) as well as all those allergy and asthma symptoms.

H2 receptors modulate sinus rhythm (in your heart), stimulate  gastric acid secretion, inhibit antibody synthesis, T-cell proliferation and cytokine production.

So histamine dysfunction would contribute to many conditions that are known to be comorbid with autism:-

·        Obesity and also low appetite (both extremes)
·        Poor sleep
·        GERD/GORD/reflux
·        Cognitive impairment
·        Allergy
·        Mood disorders

As usual things are complicated, because the histamine receptors are slightly different in each part of the brain so your histamine antagonist/blocker “sticks” better on some than on others.  So one H1 antihistamine will be more sedating, or more appetite-increasing than another one.

H1 antihistamines in Autism

Most attention in this blog has been directed to the effect of H1 antihistamines outside the brain/CNS.  To a greater or lesser extent, all H1 antihistamines are also mast cell stabilizers.  They reduce the release of histamine itself, as well as blocking H1 receptors (and so relieving allergy symptoms).

Blocking the release of histamine outside the BBB stops the release of inflammatory cytokines like IL-6, which can, directly or indirectly, cross the blood brain barrier.

However many people report that common H1 antihistamines seem to improve autistic behavior, irrespective of any allergy being present. My assumption is that this may be the case with nine year old girl, certainly worth investigating.

Either there is a mild allergy that has gone unnoticed, or this must be the effect of blocking H1 receptors within the brain/CNS.

H3 antihistamines in Autism

I think it quite likely that some people with autism and schizophrenia would experience cognitive improvement from H3 antagonists.

It is perhaps odd that nobody has investigated the cognitive effects of Betahistine.

Betahistine has a very strong affinity as an antagonist for histamine  H3 receptors and a weak affinity as an agonist for histamine H1 receptors.

The disadvantage is that betahistine increases histamine levels outside the BBB, so not good for someone with asthma.

There is data on the effect of Betahistine on weight gain in schizophrenia:-

Reducing antipsychotic-induced weight gain in schizophrenia: a double-blind placebo-controlled study of reboxetine-betahistine combination.

It was safe, well tolerated and did reduce weight gain.  I would have liked to know the effect on cognitive function.


There may be too much histamine being released, or its degradation might be impaired (DAO, SAMe, & HMT are all implicated in autism/schizophrenia), or there may be over/under expression of histamine receptors in certain places.

For example in schizophrenia,  metabolites of histamine are increased in the cerebrospinal fluid of people, while the efficiency of H1 receptor binding sites is decreased.

The role of the central histaminergic system on schizophrenia.

It would not be surprising if people with autism and histamine/mast cell related issues outside the brain, also have central (in the brain) histamine dysfunctions.

There are only 24,000 genes found in humans (there are 700+ autism genes).  As a result these genes have to be reused many times all over the body.  Any dysfunction may be reappear in surprising parts of the body.  Add to this the way the body is controlled by feedback loops and you can see a how very many things are inter-related.

This also explains why very clever ideas can work in vitro (in the lab) but completely fail when applied to humans. "Stumbled upon", which must really annoy some clever scientists, is a very valid discovery method and can still earn you top marks.

This also means that many potential therapies can have unintended side effects. Like the H3 antagonist Betahistine, which can cause gastric acid problems and itching.  Betahistine acting in the brain might be good for cognition, but might not be without drawbacks elsewhere in the body.

Coming back to Tom and Jerry and where this post started

As usual Jerry got the better of Tom.

Since continued used of Remeron might lead to obesity, it would be interesting to see if the autism benefits were maintained by using a more conventional H1 antihistamine.  The older ones should better cross the BBB, but will be more sedative.

The people currently using conventional H1 antihistamines to treat their n=1 case of autism, might want to compare the effect of the very small dose of Remeron.

The people using second generation conventional H1 antihistamines (Zyrtec, Claritin etc) to treat their n=1 case of autism might want to compare the effect of the old fashioned versions that, like Remeron, have high much higher HR occupancy in the brain.

For those still hungry (too much histamine) for more:-

Histamine H3 receptor antagonists/inverse agonists on cognitive and motor processes: relevance to Alzheimer's disease, ADHD, schizophrenia, and drug abuse

The role of hypothalamic H1receptor antagonism in antipsychotic-induced weight gain.


Therapeutic potential of histamine H3 receptor agonist for thetreatment of obesity and diabetes mellitus

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Minimizing Summertime Autism Flare-ups in 2015

When I first connected histamine to autism, I did not realize that this might be a common problem.  The most frequently viewed post on this blog is one on histamine and autism; so at least 10,000 people out there have googled “autism and histamine”.

Two years later, the therapy is still evolving and it should be said that, what works best for one person may not help in another person.  The main point is that in some people with autism, they face a summertime regression due to the effect of allergy.  So bad behaviours and aggression increase and good behaviours and indeed cognitive function decrease.  This appears to be the result of histamine and a pro-inflammatory cytokine called IL-6.

For the 2015 pollen season, which started early where we live, this is what we are using:-

Azelastine nasal spray, this is an H1 antihistamine that is also inhibits mast cells from “degranulating” and emptying their load of pro-inflammatory substances.  Once a day.

Quercetin is a cheap flavonoid that has numerous actions including on histamine H1 receptors, mast cells, and inflammation. 125mg two or three times a day.

Verapamil is an L-type calcium channel blocker and also a mast cell stabilizer. 40mg three times a day

Fluticasone propionate 50 µg (micrograms) – see below.  It is a steroid that has recently been shown to have some unexpected effects on mast cells.  

I have found that oral antihistamines were effective for only a couple of hours, but their effect varies widely from person to person.

In theory, Rupatadine should be the most effective anti-histamine, since it is also a potent mast cell stabilizer.  The old first generation antihistamines (that make you drowsy) could in theory be better than the new ones like Claritin, Zyrtec, since they can also cross the blood brain barrier (BBB).

Ketotifen and cromolyn sodium should also be useful, but if the allergy is pollen related, you really need the nasal spray (nasalcrom etc) to get the most effect.  In some countries they sell eye drops and not the nasal spray.  Usually the eye drops are more diluted than the nasal spray.  For example, the Azelastine eye drops contain 50% less Azelastine than the nasal spray, but are otherwise the same.  Where we live they have run out of the nasal spray but not the eye drops, so you could refill the spray with eye drops and double the number of sprays to get the same dose.

Drugs like Claritin and Zyrtec are H1 antihistamines and also partial mast cell stabilizers; they have a positive behavioral effect in some people with ASD, who are apparently allergy free.

New for 2015

I expect that two recent anti-inflammatory therapies, the Tangeretin flavonoid and the Miyairi 588 bacteria/probiotic may have a beneficial, indirect, effect on our usual summertime regression.

A more convention approach is to add fluticasone propionate to reduce the inflammation caused by allergy.  This drug is a steroid and widely used either as an inhaler to control asthma and COPD, or as a nasal spray to treat allergies.

As Flixotide inhaler, Monty, aged 11 with ASD and asthma, has already been taking fluticasone propionate for a few years.  We now use a tiny dose (50 µg), since his autism therapies have greatly reduced any asthma tendencies.

Fluticasone propionate nasal spray (Flixonase, Flonase etc) is widely sold as a treatment for hay fever and rhinitis and was recently combined with Azelastine (see above) as a treatment for moderate to severe allergies in a product call Dymista.

The combination of H1 antihistamine, mast cell stabilizer and anti-inflammatory all in one spray does seem a good idea.  The steroid dose using Dymista is actually lower than the usual dose of steroid when using Fluticasone propionate nasal spray alone.  You want to minimize the amount of steroid absorbed in the blood. When used as a spray/inhaler the amount is tiny, but still should be considered.

Dymista (Azelastine + Fluticasone propionate) does indeed work better than Azelastine alone.  There is no sign of allergy at all (no red eyes, sneezing, itchy nose), with Azelastine you still have an itchy nose.

In our case, the allergy symptoms, even minors ones, do correlate with the change in behaviour and cognitive function; so the target is no allergy symptoms at all.

If anyone has other therapies for summertime flare ups, feel free to share them.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

“Spray Fire in my Head” and how putting it out with Verapamil links Histamine, IL6, Mast cells, Calcium Channel Cav1.2, and even the Vagus Nerve

After 18 months of researching autism, things are falling nicely into place.  For regular readers of this blog, it may seem that we have uncovered a bewildering number of issues/dysfunctions that need to be addressed by the science.  In fact, when you look closer still, you will see that many of these issues are interrelated and you do not need to treat each one.  Also, it is clear that many different methods can be used to treat the same dysfunction.  The best methods though would be the simplest, safest, cheapest and the ones that address multiple issues at once.

One such little gem is Verapamil, an extremely cheap calcium channel blocker that has been widely used for 30 years for other conditions. 

Spray Fire in my Head

Monty, aged 10 with ASD, suffers from allergies like many children.  I noticed that his pollen allergy provoked a dramatic increase in his autistic behaviors.  Last year I spent time developing a treatment for these summertime autism flare-ups, to avoid summertime misery for all of us.

My final secret weapon was not a commonly known allergy drug; in fact almost nobody would even consider it for this purpose, except those who read the old research.

Where we live, last the weekend the air was full of tree pollen and it was 280 C/ 820 F; so I was expecting a response from Monty.

He soon had red eyes, briefly rolled about on the floor and declared “spray fire in my head”.

In anticipation of the pollen season, for the last few weeks I have been giving him some mast cell stabilizing treatments, but clearly they were not sufficient; so I mixed up some extra verapamil, and as expected, a few minutes later peace was fully restored.

I have told you about channelopathies in previous posts.  Verapamil blocks the calcium channel called Cav1.2, but I did not tell you that in addition to this Cav1.2 channel affecting behavior and heart disease, it also appears to directly affect allergies and even the vagus nerve.

It would seem that one cheap little pill can address all of these issues.

The take-home points from the literature are these:-

Verapamil is very widely prescribed calcium channel blocker, used to lower blood pressure; but in the literature it is shown that:-
  • Verapamil inhibits mast cells and is shown to successfully treat asthma
  • Verapamil is more potent than the allergy drug Azelastine (the best mast cell stabilizing anti-histamine drug available)
  • Verapamil will reduce histamine release and therefore inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL6), already elevated in autism
  • Verapamil activates the Gene for IL6
  • Verapamil alters the balance between parts of the autonomic nervous system's function, with a shift toward decreased sympathetic tone and increased parasympathetic (vagus nerve) tone
  • Autism is associated with an atypical autonomic response to anxiety that is most consistent with sympathetic over-arousal and parasympathetic under-arousal.  So increasing the parasympathetic (vagus nerve) tone is desirable.
Verapamil, Allergies and Asthma

Pollen allergies are a common trigger for asthma, and since every year many people die from asthma, the underlying science is well researched/understood.

This study has demonstrated, for the first time, that mast cell tryptase potentiates the contractile response to histamine in human isolated airways. Moreover, this potentiation occurs only in tissues derived from patients whose bronchi exhibit a contractile response to antigen, i.e. which are sensitized. The potentiation was not observed in nonsensitized tissue. The mechanism underlying the tryptase-induced potentiation is related to Ca2+ flux through voltage-dependent channels, since it was inhibited by verapamil.

Inhibition of rat mast cell degranulation by verapamil.

Calcium antagonists, e.g. verapamil, prevent exercise-induced asthma. This protective effect may proceed from inhibition of contraction of bronchial smooth muscle, release of mediators by primary effector cells, e.g. mast cells, or both. Therefore, we studied the inhibitory effect of increasing concentrations of verapamil on both in vitro antigen-induced degranulation and ionophore A23187-induced release of labelled serotonin by rat peritoneal mast cells. There was a dose-dependent inhibition by verapamil of both ovalbumin-induced degranulation of mast cells passively sensitized by incubation with mice IgE-rich serum and ionophore-induced release of tritiated serotonin by mast cells previously incubated with (3H)-5HT; the 50% inhibiting concentration was 1.4 X 10(-4) mol I-1 and 5.2 X 10(-5) mol I-1, respectively. An attractive explanation of our results is that verapamil inhibits the antigen-induced release of mediators by mast cells through its calcium antagonist effect. Our results also suggest that the preventing effect of calcium antagonists on asthma may be multi-factorial since other authors have clearly shown that these drugs inhibit contraction of guinea-pig tracheal smooth muscle in vitro.


The inhibition of mediator released by Azelastine may help to explain their protective action in anaphylaxis. Our observations are in agreement that Azelastine exerts inhibitory effect on synthesis and release of chemical mediators from mast cell (Chand et al., 1983), including the leukotrienes (Hamasaki et al., 1996).

 Azelastine is a second-generation antihistamine approved for treatment ofallergic conditions. This randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled, parallel group clinical trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of Azelastine in patients with moderate to-severe seasonal allergic conditions (Shah et al., 2009).  Reussi et al. (1980) have demonstrated the inhibition of release of chemical mediators from mast cells by Ca++ channel blocker in animals in vivo and demonstrate the inhibition of antigen-induced brocho-constriction by Verapamil in sheep, allergic to ascaris sum antigen but Verapamil failed to block in the same non-sensitized animal. It is speculated that calcium channel blocker protect against the allergic broncho-constriction predominantly by preventing the release of chemical mediators from the mast cells.

Fig. 2. Graph shows dose dependent inhibitory effect of Azelastine and Verapamil with the treatment of EC50 ovalbumin. Line in the box indicates the ovalbumin EC50 induced contraction (Control). Each point represent mean of six observationsSyed Saud Hasan et al. 49  On the other hand Henderson et al. (1983) found significant inhibition of allergic response with Nifedipine and Lee at al. (1983) also supported the finding, which observed inhibition of mediator release from human lung in vitro by Verapamil.

   Verapamil in concentration 10-10 g/ml did not exhibit any inhibition but as the concentration increases to 10-9 g/ml showed marked inhibition in contractile effect of ovalbumin EC50 (0.3x10-6). Further increases in concentration of Verapamil i.e. 10-8 g/ml completely antagonized the ovalbumin induced contraction. Azelastine in concentration of 10-9 g/ml (1ng/ml) did not exhibit any inhibition as the concentration increase to 10-8 g/ml showed mark inhibition i.e. 20% contraction to EC50 (0.3x10-6) ovalbumin, when compared before treatment with Azelastine and the concentration 10-7 g/ml antagonized the effect of EC50 (Table and Figure 2).

CONCLUSION It can be inferred from the observations that response produced by antigen can be controlled better with Verapamil than Azelastine and emerging with similar activity regardless of exact mechanism involved.

Verapamil and the IL-6 Gene

Conclusions—The results demonstrate that CCB of all 3 subclasses are capable of activating NF-IL6 and NF-kB. CCB may thus directly regulate cellular functions by affecting the activity of transcription factors independent of changes of intracellular calcium concentrations, an observation that is of interest considering the biological effects induced by CCB.

A major result of our investigations is the discovery of the activation of  transcription factors resulting from CCB treatment. In general, CCB are postulated to exert their biological effects by decreasing the intracellular concentration of calcium ions.1–4 Experimentally, this effect is usually achieved at micromolar concentrations of the drugs. However, accumulating evidence suggests that CCB, used at therapeutically effective doses (ie, at the nanomolar range), activate calcium in dependent signal transduction pathway(s) altering gene expression.14–17 Here, we show that CCB directly activate the transcription factors NF-IL6 and NF-kB in human VSMC, independent of intracellular calcium levels. This is supported by the existence of multiple regulatory regions within the intracellular part of the L-type calcium channel. It remains to be investigated, however, along which signal transduction pathway this action of CCB occurs.

Verapamil and the Vagus Nerve

Two of the most popular subjects on this blog are “autism and allergies” and “autism and the vagus nerve”.

The vagus nerve connects many parts of the body and seems to be a conduit for inflammatory signaling within the body.  It is deeply involved the process leading to arthritis and epilepsy; by stimulating this nerve with electrical signals, both epilepsy and arthritis can be reduced markedly in certain people.  It is often suggested that the GI problems in many autistic people and linked to aberrant behaviors via the vagus nerve, what some call the “gut brain connection”.

To understand what is going on and why is does affect autism we need to introduce something new, the autonomic nervous system.  For those who already know about this, the interesting finding is that:-

Verapamil alters the balance between parts of the autonomic nervous system's function  with a shift toward decreased sympathetic tone and increased parasympathetic (vagus nerve) tone.

The source of this statement is:

and their sources were:-

We learned in an earlier post about autism and the Vagus Nerve that it seems to link many strange things in autism.

We learned from Professor Porges that, for example, the neural mechanism for making eye contact is shared with those needed to listen to the human voice; people with autism struggle with both.  Anything that can “wake up” the vagus nerve system could be interesting.

In the complicated science we will see that the vagus nerve is also called the parasympathetic nervous system.  The paper below shows how this parasympathetic (Vagus) system is out of balance with the opposing sympathetic nervous system, this then leads to anxiety commonly found in autism.

Assessment of anxiety symptoms in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is a challenging task due to the symptom overlap between the two conditions as well as the difficulties in communication and awareness of emotions in ASD. This motivates the development of a physiological marker of anxiety in ASD that is independent of language and does not require observation of overt behaviour. In this study, we investigated the feasibility of using indicators of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity for this purpose. Specially, the objectives of the study were to 1) examine whether or not anxiety causes significant measurable changes in indicators of ANS in an ASD population, and 2) characterize the pattern of these changes in ASD. We measured three physiological indicators of the autonomic nervous system response (heart rate, electrodermal activity, and skin temperature) during a baseline (movie watching) and anxiety condition (Stroop task) in a sample of typically developing children (n = 17) and children with ASD (n = 12). The anxiety condition caused significant changes in heart rate and electrodermal activity in both groups, however, a differential pattern of response was found between the two groups. In particular, the ASD group showed elevated heart rate during both baseline and anxiety conditions. Elevated and blunted phasic electrodermal activity were found in the ASD group during baseline and anxiety conditions, respectively. Finally, the ASD group did not show the typical decrease in skin temperature in response to anxiety. These results suggest that 1) signals of the autonomic nervous system may be used as indicators of anxiety in children with ASD, and 2) ASD may be associated with an atypical autonomic response to anxiety that is most consistent with sympathetic over-arousal and parasympathetic under-arousal.

The following explanation of the Autonomic Nervous System is edited from Wikipedia.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system that functions largely below the level of consciousness to control functions,] including heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, salivation, perspiration, pupillary dilation, micturition (urination), sexual arousal, breathing and swallowing. Most autonomous functions are involuntary but they can often work in conjunction with the somatic nervous system which provides voluntary control.

The ANS is divided into three main sub-systems:

PSNS is often considered the "rest and digest" or "feed and breed" system
SNS is often considered the "fight or flight" system
ENS consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal system

Depending on the circumstances, these sub-systems may operate independently of each other or interact co-operatively.

In many cases, PSNS and SNS have "opposite" actions where one system activates a physiological response and the other inhibits it. The modern characterization is that the sympathetic nervous system is a quick response mobilizing system and the parasympathetic is a more slowly activated dampening system.

In general, ANS functions can be divided into sensory (afferent) and motor (efferent) subsystems. Within both, there are inhibitory and excitatory synapses between neurons. Relatively recently, a third subsystem of neurons that have been named 'non-adrenergic and non-cholinergic' neurons (because they use nitric oxide as a neurotransmitter) have been described and found to be integral in autonomic function, in particular in the gut and the lungs

Neurotransmitters and pharmacology

At the effector organs, sympathetic ganglionic neurons release noradrenaline (norepinephrine), along with other cotransmitters such as ATP, to act on adrenergic receptors, with the exception of the sweat glands and the adrenal medulla:
  • Acetylcholine is the preganglionic neurotransmitter for both divisions of the ANS, as well as the postganglionic neurotransmitter of parasympathetic neurons.
  • Nerves that release acetylcholine are said to be cholinergic. In the parasympathetic system, ganglionic neurons use acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter to stimulate muscarinic receptors.
  • At the adrenal medulla, there is no postsynaptic neuron. Instead the presynaptic neuron releases acetylcholine to act on nicotinic receptors. Stimulation of the adrenal medulla releases adrenaline (epinephrine) into the bloodstream, which acts on adrenoceptors, producing a widespread increase in sympathetic activity.

 Circulatory system


β1, (β2): increases
M2: decreases


α2: aggregates
β2: inhibits

Endocrine system

α2: decreases insulin secretion from beta cells, increases glucagon secretion from alpha cells
M3:[ increases secretion of both insulin and glucagon.[16][17]
N (nicotinic ACh receptor): secretes epinephrine and norepinephrine

Nerve "Wiring Diagram"

The PSNS (parasympathetic nerve system) is wired together via the Vagus Nerve
The SNS (sympathetic nerve system) is wired together via the splanchnic nerves.

Autonomic nervous system, showing splanchnic nerves in middle, and the vagus nerve as "X" in blue. The heart and organs below in list to right are regarded as viscera.
The viscera are mainly innervated parasympathetically by the vagus nerve and sympathetically by the splanchnic nerves.


For those of you that made it this far, here are my conclusions.

People who have autism and any kind of allergy, be it pollen, food intolerance, asthma or anything similar, might consider asking their doctor to let them trial a very low dose of Verapamil for a couple of days.  The effect is almost instant and so there is no point trialing it for weeks.  Verapamil will lower your blood pressure, in a dose dependent fashion.  The effective autism dose for a severe allergy case is about 1mg/kg.  The half-life varies person to person, so you might need two doses a day, or you might need three.

If you know an adult with severe asthma, look hard and you may see some very mild signs of autism (need for order, anxiety, lack of flexibility etc).

It appears that in all these cases, the gene CACNA1C is misbehaving to varying degrees in different parts of the body.  This gene produces the calcium channel Cav1.2.

You could check if you have the mutated gene, but I do not see the point.  It would only tell you what might happen.  To know what actually has happened, you would need to use proteomics

This emerging science will ultimately be able to provide biomarkers for neurological conditions like autism, depression, bipolar etc, so that the neurologist will know, with certainly, what specific dysfunctions each individual person has.  At that point, behavioral assessments and psychiatry will finally be consigned to history and people will get “smart drugs”, to treat precisely diagnosed neurological dysfunctions.