Showing posts with label HCA2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HCA2. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

DMF for Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Autism and Friedreich's Ataxia?

Yet more money was just donated to autism research. In 2017 the CEO of Broadcom gave $20 million to MIT and now he has given $20 million to Harvard, where he did his MBA.

Time to boost Homer's mitochondria?

I think philanthropists from the fast-moving IT sector should demand rather more from the slow-moving world of autism research.  I also think common sense is often more lacking than money.

The US Government has also just announced $1.8 billion for autism research.

Donald Trump authorized a five-year extension of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act. The 2014 act dedicated funds to children with autism spectrum disorder, but the new version includes adults.  Children with autism do indeed grow up to become adults with autism. 
Today we look at further applications of DMF, which is a cheap chemical also sold as a very expensive drug.

We learnt from Dr Kelley, from Johns Hopkins, that most regressive autism features mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondria within cells produce ATP (fuel) via a complex multi-step process called OXPHOS. If you lack any of the required enzyme complexes for OXPHOS, that part of your body will suffer a power shortage/outage.  Another potential problem is just too few mitochondria.

The treatment for mitochondrial disease is mainly to avoid further damage, using antioxidants.  If you know which enzyme complex is lacking, you might try and target that.

We saw a long time ago in this blog that PGC-1α is the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis and as such this would be a target for people with mitochondrial dysfunction.

Among other interactions, PGC-1α is affected by something called PPAR-γ (Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma), also known as the glitazone receptor.

There are many cheap drugs that target PPAR-γ, because this is also one way to treat type 2 diabetes.  We saw that Glitazone drugs have been successfully trialed in autism.

Today we look at another way to activate PGC-1α and stimulate the production of more mitochondria and increase the necessary enzyme complexes for OXPHOS.

Many people with autism in the US are diagnosed by their MAPS/DAN doctor as lacking Complex 1.

DMF has two principal effects. It affects NRF2 and HCAR2.

Many supplements sold online are supposed to activate NRF2, but may well lack potency.

Activating NRF2 turns on your antioxidant defences and so is good for people with autism, diabetes, COPD and many other conditions, but is bad for someone with cancer.

We will see later how, somewhat bizarrely, at high doses DMF reverses function and causes cell death via oxidative stress, making it a potent potential cancer therapy.  Cancer cells are highly vulnerable to oxidative stress.

In this blog we are focusing on low doses of DMF, that are NRF2 activating.

In the chart below the NFE2L2 gene encodes the transcription factor NRF2. We want the antioxidant genes turned on.

We then get another benefit because NRF2 expression also regulates NRF1 expression.

The transcription factor NRF1 is another regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis with involvements in mitochondrial replication  and transcription of mitochondrial DNA.

We then get a third benefit from DMF via activating HCAR2, this time we increase Complex I expression.  In the OXPOS multistep process to make fuel/ATP the bottleneck is usually Complex I, so Complex I is often referred to as being “rate limiting”. Complex I is the most important deficiency to fix.

Dimethyl fumarate mediates Nrf2-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis in mice and humans

The induction of mitochondrial biogenesis could potentially alleviate mitochondrial and muscle disease. We show here that dimethyl fumarate (DMF) dose-dependently induces mitochondrial biogenesis and function dosed to cells in vitro, and also dosed in vivo to mice and humans. The induction of mitochondrial gene expression is more dependent on DMF's target Nrf2 than hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 2 (HCAR2). Thus, DMF induces mitochondrial biogenesis primarily through its action on Nrf2, and is the first drug demonstrated to increase mitochondrial biogenesis with in vivo human dosing. This is the first demonstration that mitochondrial biogenesis is deficient in Multiple Sclerosis patients, which could have implications for MS pathophysiology and therapy. The observation that DMF stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, gene expression and function suggests that it could be considered for mitochondrial disease therapy and/or therapy in muscle disease in which mitochondrial function is important.

DMF for Friedreich's ataxia

Friedreich's ataxia (FA) is a genetic disease caused by mutations in the FXN gene on the chromosome 9, which produces a protein called frataxin. It causes difficulty walking, a loss of sensation in the arms and legs and impaired speech that worsens over time. Symptoms typically start between 5 and 15 years of age. Most young people diagnosed with FA require a mobility aid such as a wheelchair by their teens. As the disease progresses, people lose their sight and hearing. Other complications include scoliosis and diabetes.

Frataxin is required for the normal functioning of mitochondria, the energy-producing factories of cells. Mutations in the FXN gene lead to a decrease in the production of frataxin and the consequent disruption in mitochondrial function.
No effective treatment exists. FA shortens life expectancy due to heart disease, but some people can live into their sixties.

Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder resulting from decreased expression of the mitochondrial protein frataxin, for which there is no approved therapy. High throughput screening of clinically used drugs identified Dimethyl fumarate (DMF) as protective in FA patient cells. Here we demonstrate that DMF significantly increases frataxin gene (FXN) expression in FA cell model, FA mouse model and in DMF treated humans. DMF also rescues mitochondrial biogenesis deficiency in FA-patient derived cell model. We further examined the mechanism of DMF's frataxin induction in FA patient cells. It has been shown that transcription-inhibitory R-loops form at GAA expansion mutations, thus decreasing FXN expression. In FA patient cells, we demonstrate that DMF significantly increases transcription initiation. As a potential consequence, we observe significant reduction in both R-loop formation and transcriptional pausing thereby significantly increasing FXN expression. Lastly, DMF dosed Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients showed significant increase in FXN expression by ~85%. Since inherited deficiency in FXN is the primary cause of FA, and DMF is demonstrated to increase FXN expression in humans, DMF could be considered for Friedreich's therapy.

High Dose DMF to treat some cancer

Some readers may recall that the protein DJ-1 is encoded by the Parkinson’s gene PARK7 and that DMF has already been proposed as a therapy for Parkinson’s disease. 

At high doses of DMF the protein DJ-1 loses its stabilization function and ends up effectively blocking NRF2. Put simply, high dose DMF turns off NRF2, making it a cancer cell killer.

Dimethyl Fumarate Controls the NRF2/DJ-1Axis in Cancer Cells: Therapeutic Applications

The transcription factor NRF2 (NFE2L2), regulates important antioxidant and cytoprotective genes. It enhances cancer cell proliferation and promotes chemoresistance in several cancers. Dimethyl fumarate (DMF) is known to promote NRF2 activity in noncancer models. We combined in vitro and in vivo methods to examine the effect of DMF on cancer cell death and the activation of the NRF2 antioxidant pathway. We demonstrated that at lower concentrations (<25 a="" activation="" antioxidant="" cytoprotective="" dmf="" has="" mol="" nrf2="" of="" pathway.="" role="" span="" the="" through=""> At higher concentrations, however (>25 μmol/L), DMF caused oxidative stress and subsequently cytotoxicity in several cancer cell lines. High DMF concentration decreases nuclear translocation of NRF2 and production of its downstream targets. The pro-oxidative and cytotoxic effects of high concentration of DMF were abrogated by overexpression of NRF2 in OVCAR3 cells, suggesting that DMF cytotoxicity is dependent of NRF2 depletion. High concentrations of DMF decreased the expression of DJ-1, a NRF2 protein stabilizer. Using DJ-1 siRNA and expression vector, we observed that the expression level of DJ-1 controls NRF2 activation, antioxidant defenses, and cell death in OVCAR3 cells. Finally, antitumoral effect of daily DMF (20 mg/kg) was also observed in vivo in two mice models of colon cancer. Taken together, these findings implicate the effect of DJ-1 on NRF2 in cancer development and identify DMF as a dose-dependent modulator of both NRF2 and DJ-1, which may be useful in exploiting the therapeutic potential of these endogenous antioxidants.

Proposed mechanism of DMF-induced cancer cell death. Low concentrations of DMF can induce the NRF2 antioxidant pathway, allowing NRF2 nuclear translocation and binding to the antioxidant response elements leading to the transcription of antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes, thereby promoting cell survival. High concentrations of DMF, however, induce disruption of the NRF2 stabilizer DJ-1, which in turn impairs NRF2 induction and transcriptional activities in response to DMF, induces ROS generation, GSH depletion, and hence, facilitates cancer cell death. Cys, cysteine; 2SC, succination of cysteine residues.


This post did not cost $20 million, it is yours for free.

It looks pretty obvious that people with autism caused by, or associated with, mitochondrial dysfunction might potentially benefit from DMF.

People with Friedreich’s Ataxia do not currently have any treatment options. Low dose DMF is free of side effects, the high doses used to treat Psoriasis and Multiple Sclerosis often cause troubling GI side effects.

DMF seems to have very many potential therapeutic applications, limited only by the cost of the pharmaceutical version of this cheap chemical. Fortunately the "autism dose" is tiny.

Related Earlier Posts

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Ketone Therapy in Autism (Summary of Parts 1-6)

Open the above file via Google Drive, so it is big enough to read. Click the link below. You can also take links from it to the relevant blog post.

In the mini series of posts on ketones and autism we have come across a long list of effects that will benefit certain groups of people.

1.     Change in gut Bacteria

2.     Ketones as a brain fuel    

3.     Niacin Receptor HCA2/ GPR109A

4.     NAD sparing

5.     CtBP Activation by reducing NADH/NAD+ ratio

6.     NLRP3 Inflammasome inhibition

7.     Class 1 HDAC inhibition

8.     Increase BDNF

9.     Ramification of Microglia

10.PKA activation

11.PPAR gamma activation
It was interesting that the beneficial effect of the Ketogenic Diet in epilepsy is driven by changes the high fat diet makes to the bacteria in your gut and seems to have nothing really to do with ketones. Well it took a hundred years to figure that one out.
In the case of Alzheimer’s, you can see that more than one effect is potentially beneficial. People with Alzheimer’s do have low glucose uptake to the brain, but they also have elevated inflammatory cytokine IL-1B.
In Huntington’s it is the HDAC inhibition effect that seems to be what helps.  This brings us back to HDAC inhibition as a potentially transformative therapy with long lasting effects. It appears that the small number of people who achieve long lasting benefit from short term use of sulforaphane or EGCG may have experienced HDAC inhibition changing the expression of up to 200 genes.  In the case of sulforaphane from broccoli, some people have gut bacteria that produces large amounts of the enzyme myrosinase, which means they convert very much more of the glucoraphanin in broccoli to sulforaphane (an HDAC inhibitor).
It does look like a low dose of a potent HDAC inhibiting cancer drug is what is needed by certain single gene autisms and perhaps some idiopathic autism. This was covered in a dedicated post where we saw the long-lasting benefit of short-term use of Romidepsin. Vorinostat, a very similar drug, but which is taken orally, should be trialled in Shank 3, Pitt Hopkins and Kabuki, to see if the same transformative long-lasting effect can be reproduced.
In Multiple Sclerosis (MS) the effect on Niacin receptor HCA2/GPR109A should help a lot, but so should PKA activation.
In mitochondrial disease it was suggested that increased ketosis will help conserve NAD, which may be deficient. Also, using ketones as an alternative brain fuel may bypass problems that occur when glucose is supposed to be the fuel and thereby boost brain function. The most important effect is likely to be activation of PPAR gamma by C10, which increases the number of mitochondria and boosts the enzyme complex 1.
Many of the people with autism and an overactive immune system stand to benefit from activating CtBP, inhibiting the NLRP3 inflammasome, or activating HCA2/GPR109A.
I think there should be clinical trials using a potent HCA2 activator in autism comorbid with immune over-activation. 
We can see that some people who respond to BHB, experience an immune rebound on cessation, so this helps narrow down the likely beneficial mode of action.  In this immune sub-group, the idea to using other activators of HCA2/GPR109A would seem worthwhile. 

PPAR gamma activation should help those with mitochondrial dysfunction, but this effect is produced only by C10, not BHB or C8. For C10 you eat a ketogenic diet or add it as a supplement (e.g. cheaper MCT oil, or coconut oil).

As recently highlighted by our reader Agnieszka, perhaps the fever effect in autism can be explained by short-term ketosis. Fever is known to sometimes raise the level of ketones, particularly in children (it is called non-diabetic ketosis).  So if your child's autism improves during, or just after fever, test the level of ketones in their urine.


We may have shown the benefits of a high fat ketogenic diet, but there are very many different fats and they do not all produce the same effects.

There are many saturated fatty acids, they are numbered based on how many Carbon atoms they have.

So, C8, known as Caprylic acid has the formula  C8H16O2

Eating C8 looks to be a great way to increase the level of ketones in your blood.

Eating C10 should be good for people with mitochondrial dysfunction and people with diabetes.

Your food contains many other saturated fatty acids and your gut bacteria produce even more.

Common Name Systematic Name Structural Formula Lipid Numbers
Propionic acid Propanoic acid CH3CH2COOH C3:0
Butyric acid Butanoic acid CH3(CH2)2COOH C4:0
Valeric acid Pentanoic acid CH3(CH2)3COOH C5:0
Caproic acid Hexanoic acid CH3(CH2)4COOH C6:0
Enanthic acid Heptanoic acid CH3(CH2)5COOH C7:0
Caprylic acid Octanoic acid CH3(CH2)6COOH C8:0
Pelargonic acid Nonanoic acid CH3(CH2)7COOH C9:0
Capric acid Decanoic acid CH3(CH2)8COOH C10:0
Undecylic acid Undecanoic acid CH3(CH2)9COOH C11:0
Lauric acid Dodecanoic acid CH3(CH2)10COOH C12:0
Tridecylic acid Tridecanoic acid CH3(CH2)11COOH C13:0
Myristic acid Tetradecanoic acid CH3(CH2)12COOH C14:0
Pentadecylic acid Pentadecanoic acid CH3(CH2)13COOH C15:0
Palmitic acid Hexadecanoic acid CH3(CH2)14COOH C16:0
Margaric acid Heptadecanoic acid CH3(CH2)15COOH C17:0
Stearic acid Octadecanoic acid CH3(CH2)16COOH C18:0
Nonadecylic acid Nonadecanoic acid CH3(CH2)17COOH C19:0
Arachidic acid Eicosanoic acid CH3(CH2)18COOH C20:0

C4, familiar as Butyric acid, helps maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier and the blood brain barrier.  Butyric acid, or butyrate, is also an HDAC inhibitor and it seems that in animal models, and some humans, a small amount can be beneficial but large amounts can have a negative effect. A small amount in humans seems to be about 500 mg a day.  There are earlier posts is this blog on butyrate.

C3, familiar as Propionic acid, is bad for you and too much propionic acid will by itself cause autistic behaviours. NAC counters the effect of propionic acid in mouse models.

All those people eating coconut oil are consuming a 99% mixture of fatty acids with 1% phytosterols.

Phytosterols like β-SitosterolStigmasterolAvenasterol and Campesterol likely explain why coconut oil actually reduces "bad" cholesterol, rather than increasing it, as predicted by the American Heart Association and others. This counters the negative effect of the Palmitic acid (C16).

Lauric acid (C12) is thought to increase HDL ("good") cholesterol and may have a beneficial effect on acne.

Myristic acid (C14) is also thought to increase HDL ("good") cholesterol.

Palmitic acid (C16) raises LDL ("bad") cholesterol and large amounts have other negative effects.

Oleic acid is also found in olive oil and is seen as a fat with beneficial effects.

Fatty acid content of coconut oil
Type of fatty acid pct
Caprylic saturated C8
Decanoic saturated C10
Lauric saturated C12
Myristic saturated C14
Palmitic saturated C16
Oleic monounsaturated C18:1
black: Saturated; grey: Monounsaturated; blue: Polyunsaturated

So the only "bad" part of coconut oil is the Palmitic acid (C16).

As for MCT oil, what is in that?

In pharmaceutical MCT oil, like the one sold by Nestle, the contents are:-

Shorter than C8      1%
C8 (Octanoic)      54%
C10 (Decanoic)   41%
Longer than C10    4%

What is the effect of those fatty acids with more than 10 carbon atoms?  Nobody likely knows.

Cooking with MCT Oil? 

This is what Nestle has in mind for dinner.

Mct Spaghetti With Meat Sauce

4 Tbsp. MCT Oil® (Medium Chain Triglycerides)
1 lb. very lean ground veal or beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp. chopped green pepper
1 cup MCT Tomato Sauce (see recipe on site)
2 cups cooked spaghetti

Heat MCT Oil; add veal, salt and pepper.
Cook until meat is brown.
Add onion, green pepper, and tomato sauce. Cook for 30 minutes over low heat.
Add cooked spaghetti, stir and serve.