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Showing posts with label DS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DS. Show all posts

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Treated ID and CBS/DYRK1A in Autism and Down Syndrome

One of the most interesting concepts I have come across writing this blog is the idea of treating people with mental retardation (MR) / intellectual disability (ID). I do keep using the term MR, because 90% of the world has no idea what ID means. MR is a very precise description, which is increasingly rare these days.
I still recall several years ago going to a French-speaking neighbour’s barbecue. The French are generally very family-oriented, but quite traditional when it comes to parenting, (hence their low rates of ADHD diagnosis). At that time, Monty aged around 8, could act strangely and was rather obsessed with fire, matches and cigarette lighters. Our neighbour introduced us to his French friends and explained Monty with a brief use of the word “retardé”, which did not prompt any comments or requests for clarification. In the English language this might have been regarded as a big faux-pas; it did not bother me.  It seemed to work very well to forewarn people not to over-react to any unexpected behaviours. 
In the English language, autism has become a nice word and seems the new ADHD, with people even wanting to be diagnosed with it.  MR/ID is still something reserved for other people; it is not something most people want to be associated with. I do use the term cognitive dysfunction, which is just as explicit as MR but does not seem to upset people.
Cognitive dysfunction (MR/ID) is an inevitable consequence of more severe autism and it is just a question of degree. It is not a comorbidity, it is all part of the same package.

In Down Syndrome (DS) IQ is usually between 45 and 71 and worsens with age. MR/ID is defined as an IQ less than 70 and accounts for 2.3% of the general population. An IQ of 100 would put you in the middle of the IQ bell curve. People with DS tend to be very happy and contented, without the problematic behaviors that can occur in autism. 
The good news is that cognitive dysfunction (MR/ID) is likely to be treatable, as some readers of this blog have discovered. You just need to figure out how, which in itself is more about your perseverance than your IQ. You do not need to be an Einstein (IQ > 160), rather a marathon runner.
I just had the uncanny experience at school during the parent-teacher meetings, to be told that other class members could learn from my younger son Monty, aged 14 with autism; that he has the neatest handwriting in class, his essay had the best structure and that when his geography teacher told his assistant to skip the final question in the test (using longitude and latitude) because it was hard, the assistant said just let him try it; he was the only one to get it right. 
So from aged 8 to 14 he has gone from “retardé” to being something quite different.  The teachers do love his assistants, who are great; but he has had an assistant from the age of 4 and back then things moved forward extremely slowly. He learnt to read and write the very hard way, with a vast amount of 1:1 instruction and the school was amazed when his then assistant taught him to read; I don’t think they expected it ever to happen. By treating cognitive dysfunction pharmacologically for five years normal learning became possible and remains a big surprise to everyone.  His new English teacher knows him from back in the darker old days and seemed more shocked than surprised, after a month of teaching him. "Is this the same boy?"
For the first time at school I am being told to be proud of my younger son’s academic achievements, rather than how talented my older son is. Big brother certainly did not expect such a day and his response was along the lines of “well the others in his class must be really thick then” (like it or not, this is a typical teenage male comment). Little brother still has autism, but it is much less disabling. Big brother is currently teaching him to fence (sword fighting), which he would not have bothered to try doing until recently, because it would not have ended well. Years ago Monty did learn to ski, play basketball and soccer, but that all took a lot of effort with very patient (mostly female) instruction; he initially had no idea what to do if a ball was rolled towards him.  Last week he happily sat through the new Blade Runner film, which is nearly three hours long with the trailers. 
Perhaps there is no need for further “breakthroughs” with my Polypill therapy.  It may be good enough already.
It just seems a pity that more people with cognitive dysfunctions are not treated. There are some extremely intelligent parents with children who have severe autism, indeed an ironic twist of genetics. Some even write autism research, or indeed fund it. Even these people are not treating it.   Their fear of quackery blinds them. There certainly are quacks and there are also those who straddle the line, some of what they say is nonsense, but other ideas may not be.

Imagine having a conversation with Bill Gates, who is using his billions to use vaccines to save millions of lives in poor countries, about the possibility that in some people vaccines might trigger mitochondrial disease and autism.  Any organization talking about autism in relation to vaccines, chelation, aluminium, heavy metals etc and anyone who associates with them are in effect blacklisted.
Why does the global head of neuroscience at Novartis not attend the Autism One or TACA conferences? He does have a son with severe autism. It would be very difficult for him to apply any therapy promoted by anyone who attends these events.
Why does a Professor of Medicine from the US Ivy League apply ideas from this blog to his son, but never leave a comment? It is very clear to me why.
As our reader Roger has commented, why do some leading autism researchers still go on about vaccines? It does their interests much more harm than good. 
I think Roger could teach Dr Naviaux a thing or two about getting his Suramin research funded.  


Enhancing Cognition
The first area I came across where serious research is underway to treat MR/ID concerns RASopathies, a group of disorders that share disturbed levels of a protein called RAS. It was actually French research.
In Down Syndrome (DS) I highlighted research that aims to increase cognitive function by targeting the alpha 5 subunit of the GABAA receptor. We also saw that the same abnormal level of chloride within in cells that exists in much autism also occurs in Down Syndrome (DS); this is why the Frenchman Ben Ari has patented Bumetanide as a therapy for DS. 
In schizophrenia and bipolar there is also reduced cognitive function, but only in schizophrenia has there been much research and clinical trials to improve it. Histamine receptors were one target of this research. 

Too much or too little CBS (Cystathionine-β-synthase )
One known cause of cognitive dysfunction that has not been mentioned in my posts is CBS and since it was raised in a comment I thought it should be included.
All you need to know if you want to rule out a CBS problem is your level of homocysteine. If it is normal you do not have a problem with CBS. If homocysteine is high you have a case of Hyper-homocystinuria, which may be caused by too little CBS, or for a different reason. If you have very low levels of homocysteine (Hypo-homocystinuria) that may be caused by too much CBS and if you have Down Syndrome elevated CBS is inevitable.
Normalizing CBS is very likely to help cognition.
Cystathionine-β-synthase, also known as CBS, is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the CBS gene. It catalyzes the first step of the transsulfuration pathway, from homocysteine to cystathionine:

L-serine + L-homocysteine    <------>     L-cystathionine + H2O


Down syndrome is a medical condition characterized by an overexpression of cystathionine beta synthase (CBS) and so a low level of homocysteine in the blood. It has been speculated that cystathionine beta synthase overexpression could be the major culprit in this disease (along with dysfunctioning of GABAA and Dyrk1a). The phenotype of down syndrome is the opposite of Hyperhomocysteinemia (described below). Pharmacological inhibitors of CBS have been patented by the Jerome Lejeune Foundation and trials are planned.


Down's syndrome (DS) or trisomy 21 is the most common genetic cause of mental retardation, and adults with DS develop Alzheimer type of disease (AD). Cystathionine beta-synthase (CBS) is encoded on chromosome 21 and deficiency in its activity causes homocystinuria, the most common inborn error of sulfur amino acid metabolism and characterized by mental retardation and vascular disease. Here, we show that the levels of CBS in DS brains are approximately three times greater than those in the normal individuals. CBS is localized to astrocytes and those surrounding senile plaques in the brains of DS patients with AD. The over-expression of CBS may cause the developmental abnormality in cognition in DS children and that may lead to AD in DS

It is a French foundation that is funding research is develop CBS inhibitors to improve cognition in Down Syndrome.


NovAliX will use its expertise and capabilities in medicinal chemistry and structural biology to develop small molecule lead candidates targeting the cystathionine-beta-synthase (CBS). Indeed inhibition of CBS over-expression has been associated with restoration of cognitive impairment in animal models afflicted with trisomy. 

People with DS have a low incidence of coronary atherosclerotic disease (CAD), which would seem to be linked to their low level of homocysteine (high CBS), but their high level of DYRK1A (see later) may be the cause of their early onset Alzheimer’s. 
Some background on homocystinuria, courtesy of Wikipedia:- 

Classical homocystinuria, also known as cystathionine beta synthase deficiency or CBS deficiency, is an inherited disorder of the metabolism of the amino acid methionine, often involving cystathionine beta synthase.
Homocystinuria represents a group of hereditary metabolic disorders characterized by an accumulation of the amino acid homocysteine in the serum and an increased excretion of homocysteine in the urine.
Signs and symptoms of homocystinuria that may be seen include the following:


The term homocystinuria describes an increased excretion of homocysteine in urine (and incidentally, also an increased concentration in plasma). The source of this increase may be one of many metabolic factors, only one of which is CBS deficiency. Others include the re-methylation defects (cobalamin defects, methionine sythase deficiency, MTHFR) and vitamin deficiencies (cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency, folate (vitamin B9) deficiency, riboflavin deficiency (vitamin B2), pyridoxal phosphate deficiency (vitamin B6)). In light of this information, a combined approach to laboratory diagnosis is required to reach a differential diagnosis.  

DYRK1A
You may have noticed that DYRK1A was mentioned as another cause of cognitive loss in Down Syndrome.  DYRK1A is yet another autism gene; it encodes an enzyme that is important in how the brain develops. Too much DYRK1A also leads to reduced levels of homocysteine. 
An OTC DYRK1A inhibitor exists today, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).



DYRK1A is important in neuronal development and function, and its excessive activity is considered a significant pathogenic factor in Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease. Thus, inhibition of DYRK1A has been suggested to be a new strategy to modify the disease. Very few compounds, however, have been reported to act as inhibitors, and their potential clinical uses require further evaluation. Here, we newly identify CX-4945, the safety of which has been already proven in the clinical setting, as a potent inhibitor of DYRK1A that acts in an ATP-competitive manner. The inhibitory potency of CX-4945 on DYRK1A (IC50=6.8 nM) in vitro was higher than that of harmine, INDY or proINDY, which are well-known potent inhibitors of DYRK1A. CX-4945 effectively reverses the aberrant phosphorylation of Tau, amyloid precursor protein (APP) and presenilin 1 (PS1) in mammalian cells. To our surprise, feeding with CX-4945 significantly restored the neurological and phenotypic defects induced by the overexpression of minibrain, an ortholog of human DYRK1A, in the Drosophila model. Moreover, oral administration of CX-4945 acutely suppressed Tau hyperphosphorylation in the hippocampus of DYRK1A-overexpressing mice. Our research results demonstrate that CX-4945 is a potent DYRK1A inhibitor and also suggest that it has therapeutic potential for DYRK1A-associated diseases

Neurodevelopmental alterations and cognitive disability are constant features of Down syndrome (DS), a genetic condition due to triplication of chromosome 21. DYRK1A is one of the triplicated genes that is thought to be strongly involved in brain alterations. Treatment of Dyrk1A transgenic mice with epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an inhibitor of DYRK1A, improves cognitive performance, suggesting that EGCG may represent a suitable treatment of DS. Evidence in the Ts65Dn mouse model of DS shows that EGCG restores hippocampal development, although this effect is ephemeral. Other studies, however, show no effects of treatment on hippocampus-dependent memory. On the other hand, a pilot study in young adults with DS shows that EGCG transiently improves some aspects of memory. Interestingly, EGCG plus cognitive training engenders effects that are more prolonged. Studies in various rodent models show a positive impact of EGCG on brain and behavior, but other studies show no effect. In spite of these discrepancies, possibly due to heterogeneity of protocols/timing/species, EGCG seems to exert some beneficial effects on the brain. It is possible that protocols of periodic EGCG administration to individuals with DS (alone or in conjunction with other treatments) may prevent the disappearance of its effects.


Conclusion

Understanding emerging therapies that treat various types of MR/ID, and also the various types of dementia, should unlock interesting avenues to raise cognitive function in many types of autism.
Homocysteine levels are very easy to measure. 
Because the gene miss-expression in Down Syndrome (DS) is fully understood, it makes sense that treatment is more advanced than in autism, which is so heterogenous. There are a lot of people in the world with DS and so there is a big market for drug makers.
The potential drug therapies to improve cognition in Down Syndrome (DS) appear to be:- 

·        Basmisanil, a negative allosteric modulator of α5 subunit-containing GABAA receptors. It appears that sodium benzoate may have a similar effect.

·        Bumetanide, an NKCC1 inhibitor

·        Potassium bromide, Br- displaces Cl- to lower intracellular Cl-

·        CBS inhibitor

·        DYRK1A inhibitor, like Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), but a more potent inhibitor like CX-4945 (Silmitasertib) might be better.

There is mouse model research to show that a single dose just after birth of a drug that stimulates the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway results in a "normal" adult brain.

The risk of Down Syndrome (DS), caused by a third copy of chromosome 21 (trisomy 21), rises rapidly with increasing maternal age, nonetheless the number of births is stable to falling in most developed countries, due to increased prenatal testing and termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly (TOPFA). TOPFA is not practiced in countries like Poland and Ireland. In Denmark screening has long been free and TOPFA has risen to 98%. In the UK two thirds of mothers opt for their free DS screening and 90% of those who test positive, opt for their free TOPFA. The one third letting nature take its course are probably mainly younger mothers.
In Catholic countries you have both extremes - in Cork, Ireland DS is present 30 times per 10,000 births, but in Zagreb Croatia it is just 6 per 10,000. In the US the CDC say it 14, while in the UK it is 10.  In South Africa 20 cases of DS occur per 10,000 births; mothers are younger than in Ireland.
In developed countries, the natural prevalence of DS looks to be 0.3%, which is the same as the incidence of strictly defined autism (SDA), which I estimated in an earlier post to be 0.3%. It is just that in developed countries most people with DS are never born. 

I would have thought CX-4945 should be trialed by some clever Alzheimer's researcher and indeed for any Tauopathy. In the meantime perhaps Grandad should drink a lot of green tea to get his dose of EGCG.







Sunday, 21 June 2015

Bumetanide “reverses” MR/ID in Down Syndrome




You probably know what Down Syndrome looks like, but you probably never expected the above life expectancy data.  It used to be the case that kids with this disorder were institutionalized after birth.



In an earlier post I suggested that some types of Mental Retardation (MR)/Intellectual Disability (ID) should be treatable.  I was thinking about RASopathies, dendritic spine morphology and the GABA E/I (Excitatory/Inhibitory) imbalance found in autism.  I even suggested to the autism researchers working on the bumetanide approval process that the simplest measure of effectiveness would be to measure IQ before and after treatment.

Recent research has shown that in Down Syndrome GABA is also excitatory.  GABA should be inhibitory, otherwise the brain cannot function properly and there will be a large risk of seizures.  In many people with autism GABA is excitatory; this reduces their cognitive function and leads to almost 80% having unusual epileptiform activity (like “pre-epilepsy”) and about 35% going on to developing seizures.

In the Down Syndrome mouse model the researchers found that Bumetanide improved cognitive function, via the shifting of GABA from excitatory to inhibitory.

Our findings demonstrate that GABA is excitatory in adult DS mice and identify a new therapeutic approach for the potential rescue of cognitive disabilities in individuals with DS.


I thought that was great news.  Perhaps other types of MR/ID are also the result of GABA E/I imbalance, they too would be treatable with Bumetanide.

The question remains, does anyone care enough to bother about these people?  Take a look at the life expectancy chart at the top of this post.  Things have got much better, but there is a long way to go.


Down Syndrome

Most people have heard about Down Syndrome (DS) and I certainly knew more about what DS looked like than what autism looked like.

People with DS look different, are short, and 99% have some degree of MR/ID.  About 10% also have autism and half will develop epilepsy.

Down syndrome is caused by having three copies of the genes on chromosome 21, rather than the usual two.  The extra genetic material present in DS results in overexpression of a portion of the 310 genes located on chromosome 21. This overexpression has been estimated at around 50%.

Some adults with DS lose the ability to use speech when they are about 30 years old.

Until 1970 children with DS used to live for just 10 years, whereas today most survive into their 50s.

About 92% of pregnancies in Europe with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome are terminated. In the United States, termination rates are around 67%.  When non-pregnant people are asked if they would have a termination if their fetus tested positive only 23–33% said yes.





Down syndrome (DS) is the most frequent genetic cause of intellectual disability, and altered GABAergic transmission through Cl-permeable GABAA receptors (GABAARs) contributes considerably to learning and memory deficits in DS mouse models. However, the efficacy of GABAergic transmission has never been directly assessed in DS. Here GABAAR signaling was found to be excitatory rather than inhibitory, and the reversal potential for GABAAR-driven Cl currents (ECl) was shifted toward more positive potentials in the hippocampi of adult DS mice. Accordingly, hippocampal expression of the cation Cl cotransporter NKCC1 was increased in both trisomic mice and individuals with DS. Notably, NKCC1 inhibition by the FDA-approved drug bumetanide restored ECl, synaptic plasticity and hippocampus-dependent memory in adult DS mice. Our findings demonstrate that GABA is excitatory in adult DS mice and identify a new therapeutic approach for the potential rescue of cognitive disabilities in individuals with DS.



Conclusion

It would appear that excitatory GABA may be more common than anyone thought.  I wonder how many other people with MR/ID might be affected and be potential beneficiaries of this very inexpensive therapy.

I did ask one of my doctor relatives if she has any patients with DS; I said that there may be a treatment for their MR/ID.  She is not going to prescribe her patients anything off-label, so unless Ben-Ari decides he wants to help people with DS, as well as ASD, people will DS will remain untreated.  I will ask him.

Also, given the large amount of money going into the genetics of autism, perhaps it would be worth looking at those 310 genes located on chromosome 21 to see if the overexpression of one may trigger speech loss in people with regressive autism and/or might be present from birth in people with classic autism.  One of them must trigger the speech loss in that sub-group of adults with DS.