Showing posts with label Curemark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Curemark. Show all posts

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Probiotics – Science and Pseudoscience

Once anyone starts to make claims that some autism is treatable, people respond in different ways.  Those applying what has always been taught in medical school, that autism is untreatable,  will either think you are making it all up, or worse, you are some evil person taking advantage of parents in emotional distress.

The very few people who read the research about things like metabolic errors and intracellular signaling may well take a different view. Also the oncology/cancer researchers who themselves think about sub-types of disease that are induced by specific signaling pathways (like RAS-induced cancers for example), may well see the sense in experimentation like that in this blog.

Medicine does indeed say that autism, Down Syndrome and ID/MR are untreatable; however current science does not support this.  Your local doctor applies medicine; he is likely totally out of his depth when it comes to where science is in 2016.

My posts are just my take on the science, I am well aware that some clever neurologists have looked at this blog and think it is all fantasy.  The doctors who have a child with autism and read this blog tend to look from a different perspective and with a much more open mind.  Once you find one therapy that is truly effective, bumetanide in our case, then there can be no turning back.

There are all kinds of diets, supplements and therapies promoted by various people, I wish them all well.

The problem any future science-based autism clinicians will have is that they inevitably get mixed up with other types.  In the US they already go to the same autism conferences, which surprises me. People then think, "Oh well if Professor X is here from Ivy League college Y, then everyone must be legit".  Big mistake. You need to be on really top form to separate out all the pseudoscience, and on occasion you may get it wrong. 


I used to be a skeptic of probiotic bacteria, that is until I was prescribed some little glass vials about a dozen years ago.  I had some side effect from an antibiotic prescribed for an ear infection.  I still recall the ENT doctor calling out (not in English) and asking what to prescribe for the GI side effects.  When I took his prescription to the pharmacy I received a pack of glass vials and a small saw blade.  You used the saw to cut the neck of the vial then you added water to the white fungus growing in the vial and poured into a glass of water, which you then drank.

It most definitely worked.

Even today when I tell my doctor relatives in the UK that probiotics work wonders for diarrhea, all I get is strange looks.

So I am already sold on the fact that probiotic bacteria can do great things for stomach problems.

I spoke to a friend in Denmark this week who has been ill much of the year and finally his problems have been diagnosed as stemming from Ulcerative Colitis.  His first symptom was actually a blood clot.  It turns out that inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), like ulcerative colitis, increase your risk of blood clots.

So I told my friend to read up on VSL#3 and Viviomixx, which do seem to help IBD, and also to read up on melatonin in the IBD research.

Probiotics and Inflammatory Disease

Looking at immune health more generally we saw how the probiotic Miyairi 588 is used to produce butyric acid which can improve immune health.  This is why cost conscious farmers put it in their animal feed to produce healthier, faster growing animals.

We saw that an alternative is just to add sodium butyrate to the food.  This is done is both livestock and some humans.

Butyrate is an HDAC inhibitor and so is thought to have epigenetic effects.

Probiotics and the Brain

You might be able to convince your doctor that a probiotic bacterium can be good for your stomach, but would you convince him that it could be good for the brain?

I must admit I also would like to see some scientific evidence, beyond anecdotes - even my own anecdotes.

So finally today’s featured scientific study:-

 There is increasing, but largely indirect, evidence pointing to an effect of commensal gut microbiota on the central nervous system (CNS). However, it is unknown whether lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus could have a direct effect on neurotransmitter receptors in the CNS in normal, healthy animals. GABA is the main CNS inhibitory neurotransmitter and is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes. Alterations in central GABA receptor expression are implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety and depression, which are highly comorbid with functional bowel disorders. In this work, we show that chronic treatment with L. rhamnosus (JB-1) induced region-dependent alterations in GABAB1b mRNA in the brain with increases in cortical regions (cingulate and prelimbic) and concomitant reductions in expression in the hippocampus, amygdala, and locus coeruleus, in comparison with control-fed mice. In addition, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced GABAAα2 mRNA expression in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, but increased GABAAα2 in the hippocampus. Importantly, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behavior. Moreover, the neurochemical and behavioral effects were not found in vagotomized mice, identifying the vagus as a major modulatory constitutive communication pathway between the bacteria exposed to the gut and the brain. Together, these findings highlight the important role of bacteria in the bidirectional communication of the gut–brain axis and suggest that certain organisms may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.

The study is interesting because it shows that a bacterium can modify GABA subunit expression in the brain, but when the vagus nerve is removed the effect is lost.  So it is pretty likely that in humans the vagus nerve is the conduit to the brain, as has many times been suggested, but here we have some pretty conclusive supporting evidence.

For a less science heavy explanation of the study:-

Belly bacteria boss the brain

Gutmicrobes can change neurochemistry and influence behavior

I did a post about the vagus nerve a while back and there is an easy to read article here:-

Viva vagus: Wandering nerve could lead to range of therapies

My old posts:-

The Vagus Nerve and Autism

Cytokine Theory of Disease & the Vagus Nerve


Individual GI bacteria have very specific effects.  In people with neurological dysfunctions the possibility genuinely exists to delivery therapies to brain via the gut.  This might have been seen as pseudoscience a decade ago, but now it is part of science, but not yet medicine.

Many other clever things going on in your gut.  The long awaited CM-AT pancreatic enzyme therapy, from a company called Curemark, is now entering its phase 3 trial (thanks Natasa). Click below. 

Blüm is the study of CM-AT, a biologic, for the treatment of Autism.

The Curemark lady, Joan Fallon, has collected numerous patents regarding various mixtures of pancreatic enzymes and even secretin.  Secretin was an autism therapy that was written off many years ago, but is still used by some DAN type doctors.

Some comments on this blog from parents of kids in the early CM-AT trials are supportive of its effect.

Pancreatic enzymes (e.g. Creon) are already used as a therapy for people who lack pancreatic enzymes and many people with autism have taken them.

Curemark have never published any of their trial data which annoys at least one of our medical researcher readers.  If you have so many patents, why not share your knowledge?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Autism Phenotypes

Hardly a week goes by without somebody mentioning to me a wonder treatment or even “cure” for autism; the latest one being the GAPS diet.

I think all such reports are worthy of investigation, but many lead to nowhere.

Why is this?

·       Medical science has failed to adequately define autism, so we are not all talking about the same autism

·        Many people putting forward theories have not read even the most basic (and not contested) autism research.  Some are even, apparently, qualified “doctors”.
Autism Phenotypes

What is not disputed is that autism has many sub-types (phenotypes). Researchers tell us 10-20% of cases referred to as autism have a known genetic defect (Fragile X, SLOS, Timothy syndrome etc.).  80% do not have a known genetic marker/cause.

Autism can be subdivided into regressive (when a child loses speech and other learnt skills) and non-regressive (early onset).  Even this can be a subjective judgment, since it effectively relies on parents to determine it, after the event.
Then you have cases of autism which clearly have nothing to do with Kanner’s classic version.  In this blog I showed how even cerebral malaria in a child can lead to the onset of autism.  This clearly is a case of brain damage caused by malaria; but to the observer, months later, it would probably be classed as regressive autism or childhood disintegrative disorder.
Testing for Autism
Researchers and doctors keep repeating that there is no test for autism.  This is not strictly true, but it does explain why so many different conditions are all lumped together as “autism”.

In fact, if you read the research closely, you will see that there are many tests for autism; although they may not be perfect.
The only way to know for sure that it is genuine autism is to examine the brain itself.  The only way to do this 100% accurately is via post-mortem analysis of the brain.  Recently, non-invasive methods have been developed to confirm the same findings of brain malformation that occurred prior to birth.

So the kind of autism that relates to tissue held in brain banks is best understood.  But what kind of autism would that be?  Well, it refers mainly to children and young adults who died prematurely.  They died from things like seizures or drowning.  What does that tell us?  This tells us that these people were most likely severely affected by autism.  The mild, social difficulties, type of autism is, fortunately, hardly likely to make it to the brain tissue bank.
If the person interpreting the MRI of a child’s brain knows what to look for, they may very well be able to identify this type of autism.  The expert here is Eric Courchesne.
A similar approach can followed using Electroencephalography (EEG) to identify autism; but it would be smart to cross check this with Eric.

Regressive vs. Early-Onset
Then you have the difference between regressive and non-regressive autism.  Here again, from my Dean’s List of researchers, we look at Paul Ashwood’s research to see that kids with regressive autism have HIGHER levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.  These include cytokines like interleukin 6, which can be inexpensively measured in most laboratories.  This tells us that perhaps regressive autism is an entirely different condition from non-regressive/early onset autism.  As I would expect, increasing cytokine levels were associated with more impaired communication and aberrant behaviors. 
Lab Testing
We have seen earlier in this blog that some very expensive lab tests exist for autism, but their usefulness and integrity is highly disputed.  There are, of course, many hundreds of other tests that are entirely validated by medical science.  Many of these tests are cheap and available all over the world.

Hormonal Screening
We know from the research that about 30% of people with autism have high blood serotonin. A standard lab test is required.
We know that many have high levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).  A standard lab test is required.
Thyroid hormone levels and in particular a blunted response of TSH to TRH (i.e. central hypothyroidism) can help define further phenotypes.

The TRH test is now not widely used, but TSH, FT3 and FT4 are cheap tests.
Growth Hormone (GH) is also implicated in autism, along with IGF-1; there is a lab test to measure pituitaryfunction to see how well GH is being produced.

By screening for hormonal dysfunction, it would be possible to identify phenotypes that would most likely benefit from therapies targeting those defects, like NNZ-25266.

Pancreatic Dysfunction
It is reported by Joan Fallon, of Curemark, that 50+% of kids diagnosed with “US autism” seem to have a pancreatic dysfunction.  This can be tested for by measuring fecal chymotrypsin level.  The test measures how well your pancreas is working, and is a standard test for people with cystic fibrosis.  Since the US diagnoses far more kids with autism than other countries, it seems highly plausible that “US autism” includes many more phenotypes than, say, “French autism”.

I was quoted about $8 for a chymotrypsin test.

Ion-Channel Diseases (Channelopathies)
Many diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Spinocerebellar Ataxia and Timothy Syndrome are caused by faulty calcium ion-channels.

The Bumetanide autism therapy, undergoing trials in Europe, is based on another channelopathy, this time a faulty chloride transporter NKCC1.
It is clear from reports I have received, that Bumetanide therapy is totally ineffective in some children with ASD, but in other children, like my son, it is effective.
So some types of autism have certain channelopathies and other types have different ones or, quite possibly, none at all.  

My conclusion today is pure conjecture.  I imagine that possibly as few as a quarter of cases of “US autism” are actually “real” autism, that is with all the brain damage/malformation that is identified in those post mortem brain studies and which forms the basis of 90% of autism research.

The other three quarters may be something entirely different, just like the case of the mosquito that bit the child, produced cerebral malaria and then later the full symptoms of autism.  Within the three quarters may be food allergies, digestive enzyme deficiencies, gut disorders, mastocytosis, blood brain barrier defects, undefined calcium ion-channel diseases etc.
This would account for those occasional amazing “recoveries” and the apparent success, in some cases, of diets like GAPS.  Sadly, diet is unlikely to 100% fix brain damage.  If you are lucky enough to totally “recover”, you cannot have had brain damage in the first place.  It is evident that in some phenotypes of autism, diet can reduce autistic behaviours.  This can only be proved in trials, if biomarkers are established for that specific phenotype.
Most likely the only biological thing all these “autisms” have in common is oxidative stress and neuroinflammation; but only a non-medical scientist, like me, can say such a thing.



Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Autism Clinical Trials, Arbaclofen (STX209), Curemark CM-AT and the Clever Chiropractor

In the world of clinical trials for drugs, judging success and failure can be highly subjective.  They try to make it as logical as possible and the method works pretty well for assessing things that you can measure objectively.

Primary and Secondary Endpoints
To quote Pfizer:

A trial endpoint of a clinical trial should fulfill three criteria: (1) be measurable and interpretable, (2) sensitive to the objective of the trial, and (3) clinically relevant. The endpoint can be either clinical or surrogate in nature.
If you are developing a drug to lower cholesterol or to increase survivability after a traumatic brain injury, it is pretty easy to define your endpoints.

When it comes to autism, one of the major hurdles is to define objective measurable endpoints.  As it stands today, none of the assessment tools are really fit for purpose, when Big Pharma is supposed to come along and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in some bright spark’s idea.

Arbaclofen, Seaside Pharma & Roche
The Swiss giant, Roche, recently had just such a problem.  They had partnered with a spinout company from MIT called Seaside Therapeutics.  One of the projects was to complete the trials of a fragile X targeted drug, called Arbaclofen (STX209).  During the 4+ years of trials Seaside had changed the primary endpoint.  Arbaclofen started out as drug to treat one aspect of behaviour, but by the time they got to phase 3  clinical trials this had been changed to lethargy and social withdrawal scores from the Autism Behavior Checklist (ABC).
Quite logically, Roche assessed the result of the stage 3 trial against its primary endpoint.  Based on the total cohort in the trial, Roche determined the drug to be a failure and pulled the plug on financing the drug further.
The owner and developer of the drug, Seaside, even though they have recently raised $90 million, said they could no longer continue to fund the trial and all those kids in the trial would have to be weaned of Arbaclofen ASAP.
It turns out that among the families involved in the trial there were many reports of wonderful improvements on Arbaclofen.  They even formed a group to lobby for a continuation of the trial.  There website is interesting.
It now appears that Seaside has had a rethink and will try again with a new trial with a new primary endpoint (mark 3).

Background on Arbaclofen
Some of the first studies of Arbaclofen were conducted in patients with Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition caused by a change in a gene called FMR1, which normally is needed to make the brain grow properly. Fragile X is the most common form of inherited intellectual disability in boys and can be a cause of autism or related disorders. In those Phase 2 trials, Arbaclofen was shown to decrease social withdrawal and improve adaptive social function.

A  Phase 2a study conducted at 8 sites and involving 32 children showed significant positive behavioral outcomes, including improved scores on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Irritability Score (ABC-I) and on the ABC-Social Withdrawal Scale. The most common adverse events were agitation, irritability, fatigue, psychomotor hyperactivity, insomnia and diarrhea. Most resolved without dose changes, but one serious adverse effect did occur during down-titration of the medication.
In July 2011, Seaside Therapeutics, announced that 25 sites across the nation will be involved in a new clinical trial to involve approximately 150 ASD patients between the ages of 5 and 21.
STX209 is an orally-administered GABA-B agonist; the drug acts by stimulating the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA inhibits the release of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter, for which an overabundance negatively affects the ability of neurons to communicate with each other.

The GABA "A" receptor, is a chloride channel, while STX209 targets the GABA "B" receptor, which is a G-protein coupled receptor and regulates a different set of molecules from GABA "A".

The original basis for starting this blog was my success with bumetanide, which is affecting the GABA “A” receptor.  In the brain, bumetanide blocks the NKCC1 cation-chloride co-transporter and thus decreases internal chloride concentration in neurons.

Medicine as an art and a science
Mark Bear is a neuroscientist at MIT and he was the co-founder of Seaside Therapeutics.  He is clearly a very brainy guy.
There is a derivative of his Arbaclofen called Arbaclofen Placarbil.  I found it interesting that this substance was also being trialed as a therapy for Multiple Sclerosis and GERD.  GERD is the medical term for heartburn/indigestion.
Incidentally, Arbaclofen Placarbil failed both trials.

Now to the Clever Chiropractor and her Pancreatic Enzymes
People outside the US will find it very strange that in the US chiropractors and osteopaths have the same right to prescribe drugs as conventional medical doctors. 

Outside of the US, if you want to be a doctor you have to apply to medical school and in most countries the competition is very tough. There is no plan B if your exam grades slip.  In the US it is different, if your grades and resources are not taking you to the Harvard, you can opt to become an osteopathic physician or a chiropractic physician.
Rather than Harvard or MIT, Joan Fallon trained as a chiropractor at Palmer University.

Not surprisingly the scientific community is skeptical of her autism treatment, which is linked to pancreatic enzymes.  After all, how can a chiropractor know more than Ivy League neuroscientists?

Peter, on the other hand, thinks that Fallon is actually far more savvy than the very brainy people over at Seaside.  Her therapy may, or may not be effective, but her method of developing it is highly effective.
First she raised $6 million to start her company Curemark, then as trials progressed she very recently she raised another $18 million.
The reason I like what Fallon is doing is that she has figured out which sub-type of autism is helped by her therapy and she has identified a bio-marker for that subgroup.

Hallelujah, a street-smart autism researcher !
If you want to enroll in a clinical trial for Curemark’s CM-AT, first they will screen out the 50% that do not have the biomarker.  Fallon is making sure that her clinical trial results look as good as possible, by only including those subjects most likely to benefit.  This may sound like common sense, but in autism research this is a revolution.

CM-AT therapy and the biomarker
The reason the autism world are skeptical of Fallon, is that she is going on about Secretin and pancreatic enzymes.
Many years ago parents thought that Secretin was going to be the wonder cure for autism; it turned out not to be.  By reading her patents, it is clear that Fallon has some faith in the role of secretin, in addition to enzymes produced in the pancreas.

What impressed me was how she has screened the kids allowed into her clinical trials.

·         Inclusion criteria:
o    Child is 3-8 years old
o    Child has a diagnosis of autistic disorder
o    Child must have a low fecal chymotrypsin level (we will measure)

·         Exclusion criteria:
o    Child must have no dietary restrictions (other than for a nut allergy)
o    Child may not have an allergy to pork products
o    Child may not have a history of severe head trauma or stroke
o    Child may not have had a seizure within the past year
o    Child may not be diagnosed with: HIV, cerebral palsy, endocrine disorder or pancreatic disease
o    Child may not be taking any enzyme product, amino acids, secretin product or stimulant medication currently 

Low fecal chymotrypsin level” is a standard lab test available all around the world.  Over the years Fallon has found that it is a biomarker of the kids who benefit from her patented mix of enzymes sprinkled on their meals.
You actually can buy a very similar product called Creon, or Kreon, depending on which country you live in.  The reason why you cannot be in the trial if you have a pork allergy, is that they use the pancreas of dead pigs to make the enzymes.  This is bad news if you are Jewish, Muslim, a Seventh Day Adventist, or indeed the pig.

The active ingredient in Creon is Pancreatin. Pancreatin contains the pancreatic enzymes lipase, amylase and protease. These assist the digestion of fat, carbohydrates and proteins.

Update on trials of CM-AT
Here is a link to the always-helpful Simons Foundation, with the expected skeptical comments from experts:-

Now Curemark have finished there phase 3 trial, and guess what? It met both primary and secondary endpoints and has been “fast-tracked” by the FDA.

Congratulations Joan !!!
One of the secrets of her success was to have the good sense to enroll herself in a course on clinical investigation run by Harvard/Massachusetts general hospital.
Curemark Begins NDA Submission for CM-AT Autism Treatment
CM-AT had previously been granted Fast Track status by the FDA, a designation given to drug candidates that treat serious or life-threatening conditions and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs. The rolling submission process allows companies with a Fast Track designation to submit the NDA in sections to the FDA as they are completed.
“Initiating our ‘rolling NDA’ submission is a major step in the registration process for CM-AT,” said Dr. Joan Fallon, Curemark founder and CEO. “We have an extraordinary opportunity to help many children with autism improve the quality of their lives and we will continue to work closely with the FDA to make that happen.”
Curemark previously announced the successful completion of its Phase III multicenter clinical trial of CM-AT for autism. CM-AT met both primary and secondary endpoints in its double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of children with autism at 3 to 8 years of age.


I would suggest those researchers who believe that diet can be an effective therapy in sub-types of ASD take good note of Joan Fallon's methods. You might indeed be right, but unless you can prove it, the skeptics will always hold sway.