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Showing posts with label Ketamine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ketamine. Show all posts

Monday, 3 April 2017

Different Types of Excitatory/Inhibitory Imbalance in Autism, Fragile-X & Schizophrenia


There is much written in the complex scientific literature about the Excitatory/Inhibitory (E/I) imbalance between neurotransmitters in autism. 

Many clinical trials have already been carried out, particularly in Fragile-X.  These trials were generally ruled as failures, in spite of a significant minority who responded quite well in some of these trials.

As we saw in the recent post on the stage II trial of bumetanide in severe autism, there is so much “background noise” in the results from these trials and it is easy to ignore a small group who are responders.  I think if you have less than 40%, or so, of positive responders they likely will get lost in the data. 

You inevitably get a significant minority who appear to respond to the placebo, because people with autism usually have good and bad days and testing is very subjective.

There are numerous positive anecdotes from people who participated in these “failed” trials.  If you have a child who only ever speaks single words, but while on the trial drug starts speaking full sentences and then reverts to single words after the trial, you do have to take note. I doubt this is a coincidence.

Here are some of the trialed drugs, just in Fragile-X, that were supposed to target the E/I imbalance:-

Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) antagonist

·        Mavoglurant

·        Lithium

mGluR5 negative allosteric modulator

·        Fenobam

N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) antagonist

·        Memantine

Glutamate re-uptake promoter

·        Riluzole

Suggested to have effects on NMDA & mGluR5 & GABAA

·        Acamprosate

GABAB agonist

·        Arbaclofen

Positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of GABAA receptor

·        Ganaxolone


Best not to be too clever

Some things you might use to modify the E/I imbalance can appear to have the opposite effect, as was highlighted in the comments in the post below:-



So whilst it is always a good idea to try and figure things out, you may end up getting things the wrong way around, mixing up hypo and hyper.

The MIT people who work on Fragile-X are really clever and they have not figured it all out.


Fragile-X and Idiopathic Autism

Fragile-X gets a great deal of attention, because its biological basis is understood.  It results in a failure to express the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), which is required for normal neural development.

We saw in the recent post about eIF4E, that this could lead to an E/I imbalance and then autism.




Our reader AJ started looking at elF4E and moved on to EIF4E- binding protein number 1.

In the green and orange boxes below you can find elF4E and elF4E-BP2.

This has likely sent some readers to sleep, but for those whose child has Fragile-X, I suggest they read on, because it is exactly here that the lack of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) causes a big problem.  The interaction between FMRP on the binding proteins of elF4E, cause the problem with neuroligins (NLGNs), which causes the E/I imbalance.  Look at the red oval shape labeled FMRP and green egg-shaped NLGNs.

In which case, while AJ might naturally think Ribavirin is a bit risky for idiopathic autism, it might indeed be very effective in some Fragile-X.  You would hope some researcher would investigate this.




Can you have more than one type of E/I imbalance?

Readers whose child responds well to bumetanide probably wonder if they have solved their E/I imbalance.

I think they have most likely improved just one dysfunction that fits under the umbrella term E/I imbalance.  There are likely other dysfunctions that if treated could further improve cognition and behavior.

On the side of GABA, it looks like turning up the volume on α3 sub-unit and turning down the volume on α5 may help. We await the (expensive) Down syndrome drug Basmisanil for the latter, given that the cheap 80 year old drug Cardiazol is no longer widely available. Turning up the volume on α3 sub-unit can be achieved extremely cheaply, and safely, using a tiny dose of Clonazepam.

It does appear that targeting glutamate is going to be rewarding for at least some of those who respond to bumetanide.

One agonist of NMDA receptors is aspartic acid. Our reader Tyler is a fan of L-Aspartic Acid, that is sold as a supplement that may boost athletic performance.  

Others include D-Cycloserine, already used in autism trials; also D-Serine and L-Serine.

D-Serine is synthesized in the brain from L-serine, its enantiomer, it serves as a neuromodulator by co-activating NMDA receptors, making them able to open if they then also bind glutamate. D-serine is a potent agonist at the glycine site of NMDA receptors. For the receptor to open, glutamate and either glycine or D-serine must bind to it; in addition a pore blocker must not be bound (e.g. Mg2+ or Pb2+).

D-Serine is being studied as a potential treatment for schizophrenia and L-serine is in FDA-approved human clinical trials as a possible treatment for ALS/Motor neuron disease.  

You may be thinking, my kid has autism, what has this got to do with ALS/Motor neuron disease (from the ice bucket challenge)? Well one of the Fragile-X trial drugs at the beginning of this post is Riluzole, a drug developed for specially for ALS.  Although it does not help that much in ALS, it does something potentially very useful for some autism, ADHD and schizophrenia; it clears away excess glutamate.


Fragile-X is likely quite different to many other types of autism

I suspect that within Fragile-X there are many variations in the downstream biological dysfunctions and so that even within this definable group, there may be no universal therapies.  So for some people an mGluR5 antagonist may be appropriate, but not for others.

Even within this discrete group, we come back to the need for personalized medicine.

I do not think Fragile-X is a good model for broader autism.


Glutamate Therapies

There are not so many glutamate therapies, so while the guys at MIT might disapprove, it would not be hard to apply some thoughtful trial and error.

You have:

mGluR5

     ·        mGluR5 agonists (only research compounds)

·        mGluR5 positive allosteric modulators (only research compounds)

·        mGluR5 antagonists (Mavoglurant, Lithium)

·        mGluR5 negative allosteric modulators (Fenobam, Pu-erh tea decreases mGluR5 expression )

Today you can only really treat too much mGluR5 activity.  It there is too little activity, the required drugs are not yet available.  I wonder how many people with Fragile-X are drinking Pu-erh tea, it is widely available.


NMDA agonists

D-Cycloserine an antibiotic with similar structure to D-Alanine (D-Cycloserine was trialed in autism and schizophrenia)

ɑ-amino acids:

·         Aspartic acid (trialed and used  by Tyler, suggested for schizophrenia)

·         D-Serine (trialed in schizophrenia)




NMDA antagonists


·        Memantine (widely used off-label in autism, but failed in clinical trials)


·        Ketamine (trialed intra-nasal in autism)


Glutamate re-uptake promoters via GLT-1


·        Riluzole


·        Bromocriptine


·        Beta-lactam antibiotics









Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Altered Homeostasis in Autism: Cl-, K+, Ca2+, and quite possibly Zn2+



Today’s post will highlight how, perhaps, in 50 years’ time, autism might be understood by the non-scientist.  Sometimes it helps to oversimplify a complex problem in order not to get lost in all the complexities and see what underlying mechanisms may exist.


Homeostasis

Homeostasis is a fancy word for balance or equilibriumIt is the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant.

All living organisms depend on maintaining a complex set of interacting metabolic chemical reactions. From the simplest unicellular organisms to the most complex plants and animals, internal processes operate to keep the conditions within tight limits to allow these reactions to proceed. Homeostatic processes act at the level of the cell, the tissue, and the organ, as well as for the organism as a whole.

Many diseases involve a disturbance of homeostasis.

Autism is clearly a condition of altered homeostasis, but not severe enough as to become degenerative.


First Chloride Cl-, Calcium Ca2+ , then Potassium K+ and now perhaps Zinc Zn2+

We have already seen that three very simple ions, chloride Cl- , calcium Ca2+, potassium K+ are in the “wrong place” or in the “wrong concentration” in autism.  This in effect tells us that there is altered homeostasis.

Would it then come as a surprise that a fourth ion, zinc Zn2+ also appears to be in the “wrong place”, in at least some autism?

Perhaps there is a common mechanism behind this dysfunctional homeostasis? It might be related to cell adhesion molecules like neuroligins (see below), which will be looked at in another post.



Source: By Sarahlobescheese (Created on Paintbrush and Microsoft Word) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Supplementation and Homeostasis

When the lay person hears that something simple is involved in the pathology of autism, the immediate reaction seems to be that you either need more, or less, of it.  So more calcium, more zinc, more magnesium etc.

The problem is more complex; there is enough calcium (and your bones are full of it) but it is not all quite in the right place, so it needs moving around a bit.

When I came across the recent research from Taiwan about the effect of zinc on the NMDA receptors in the brain, I did a quick check and found lots of people supplementing zinc. Some people because the level in their child’s hair was high and some because it was low; the therapy remained the same, more zinc.

Just as Ben-Ari really has figured out many aspects of the excitatory/inhibitory imbalance in GABA in autism and chosen a therapy that indirectly corrects it, the Taiwanese have also gone into their receptor, the NMDA, in detail.  They put forward a well thought out case for modulating it.

Just as Ben Ari choose to move chloride to outside the cells with his drug (Bumetanide), Yi-Ping Hsueh, the Taiwanese researcher, uses an existing  drug called Clioquinol to move zinc from a presynaptic terminal to postsynaptic sites in the brain.  Again, like Ben Ari, she also showed it to be effective in two different mouse models of autism.



“Here we report that trans-synaptic Zn mobilization rapidly rescues social interaction in two independent mouse models of ASD. In mice lacking Shank2, an excitatory postsynaptic scaffolding protein, postsynaptic Zn elevation induced by clioquinol (a Zn chelator and ionophore) improves social interaction. Postsynaptic Zn is mainly derived from presynaptic pools and activates NMDA receptors (NMDARs) through postsynaptic activation of the tyrosine kinase Src. Clioquinol also improves social interaction in mice haploinsufficient for the transcription factor Tbr1, which accompanies NMDAR activation in the amygdala. These results suggest that trans-synaptic Zn mobilization induced by clioquinol rescues social deficits in mouse models of ASD through postsynaptic Src and NMDAR activation



Scientists compared the interactions of test mice by placing the subjects in a box, mice that had been unchanged, mice with their Tbr1 and Shank2 proteins “knocked off” and another “stranger” mouse.
They found that unchanged mice engaged in high-level interaction with the “stranger” mouse, while mice with Tbr1 and Shank2 deficiencies interacted very little.
Hsueh’s team had previously determined that Tbr1 is a contributing factor of autism, while a team led by South Korean scientist and project coleader Eunjoon Kim discovered that Shank2 is also implicated in the condition.
Both deficiencies hamper the transmission of zinc ions to the NMDAR (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor, impairing function.
About 30 percent of children with autism suffer from zinc deficiency.
Hsueh said that previous projects had determined that autism is linked to zinc deficiency, but the research undertaken by Academia Sinica and the South Korean researchers is the first to provide a scientific explanation for the phenomenon by establishing that the social inhibitions caused by autism can be changed by revitalizing the NMDAR receptor.
Hsueh said the results from the experiment conducted on mice can be extrapolated to humans, with a higher than 90 percent relevance between the two species.
She said that as clioquinol is a prescription drug permitted in Taiwan, her team hopes psychiatrists will prescribe the drug to suitable patients.



Zinc Deficiency or Zinc Transmission Deficiency?

A quick review of the research does show very odd levels of zinc in people with autism.  It also transpires that different ways of measuring zinc levels (hair, blood etc) can produce the opposite result.  So it is hard to ascertain that somebody really does have a zinc deficiency.

The key point is the transmission of that Zinc to the NMDA receptors in the brain.  Note the Zn2+ modulatory site in the diagram below.





Clioquinol

Clioquinol, has a very tainted past in Japan. The drug was widely used for various conditions in the 1960s, at doses higher than in other countries.  Its use was tied to the emergence of a new condition called Subacute myelo-optico-neuropathy (SMON) , which only seems to have occurred in Japan.

Clioquinol is banned in some countries, but widely available in other countries, like Taiwan,

Clioquinol is showing promise in research into Alzheimer’s.

Some argue that Clioquinol is totally safe and argue for a combined therapy of Clioquinol and zinc.





Conclusions

These studies suggest that oral CQ (or other 8-hydroxyquinolines) coupled with zinc supplementation could provide a facile approach toward treating zinc deficiency in humans by stimulating stem cell proliferation and differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells.

  


Subacute myelo-optico-neuropathy (SMON) is a disease characterized by subacute onset of sensory and motor disorders in the lower half of the body and visual impairment preceded by abdominal symptoms. A large number of SMON were observed throughout Japan, and the total number of cases reached nearly 10,000 by 1970. Despite clinical features mimicking infection or multiple sclerosis, SMON was confirmed as being caused by ingestion of clioquinol, an intestinal antibacterial drug, based on extensive epidemiological studies. After the governmental ban on the use of clioquinol in September 1970, there was a dramatic disappearance of new case of SMON. In the 1970s, patients with SMON initiated legal actions against the Government and pharmaceutical companies, and the court ruled that the settlements would be made as health management allowances and lasting medical check-ups. The physical condition of patients with SMON remains severe owing to SMON as well as gerontological complications. The pathological findings in patients with SMON included symmetrical demyelination in the lateral and posterior funiculi of the spinal cord and severe demyelination of the optic nerve in patients with blindness. Although clioquinol may show activity against Alzheimer's disease or malignancy, its toxic effects cause severe irreversible neurological sequelae. Thus, caution must be exercised in the clinical use of clioquinol



Zinc is an essential micronutrient that accumulates in brain and is required for normal development and function. Both deficiency and excess of zinc alter behavior and can cause brain abnormalities and neuropathies, of which epilepsy, ischemia, and Alzheimer’s degeneration have been the most studied. Aside from catalytic and structural functions in many proteins, ionic zinc (Zn2+) may play important roles in neurotransmission. Free Zn2+ accumulates in the synaptic vesicles of a specific subset of glutamatergic neurons and is coreleased with glutamate in an activity-dependent manner. Upon release, free Zn2+ may modulate neurotransmitter receptors and transporters, activate zinc-sensing metabotropic receptors, and/or gain cellular access through Ca2+-permeable channels. At certain glutamatergic synapses, a primary role for vesicular zinc is to reduce N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor currents . A wide range of extracellular Zn2+ concentrations directly and specifically inhibit NMDA receptor responses, and in the hippocampus, a region highly enriched in vesicular zinc, zinc-positive glutamatergic synapses are also enriched in NMDA receptors. The inhibitory effects of Zn2+ on NMDA receptors have received considerable attention due in part to the pivotal role played by these receptors in synaptic transmission and plasticity. Still, the mechanism by which the inhibition occurs is incompletely understood.


Other ways of modifying NDMA receptors

As the excellent recent paper below from Korea points out,correcting NMDAR dysfunction has therapeutic potential for ASDs”.  The problem is that in some autism there is too much NMDAR function, and in others there is too little.

So we should not expect much success from any “one size fits all” therapy.


NMDA receptor dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders.


Abnormalities and imbalances in neuronal excitatory and inhibitory synapses have been implicated in diverse neuropsychiatric disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Increasing evidence indicates that dysfunction of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) at excitatory synapses is associated with ASDs. In support of this, human ASD-associated genetic variations are found in genes encoding NMDAR subunits. Pharmacological enhancement or suppression of NMDAR function ameliorates ASD symptoms in humans. Animal models of ASD display bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction, and correcting this deficit rescues ASD-like behaviors. These findings suggest that deviation of NMDAR function in either direction contributes to the development of ASDs, and that correcting NMDAR dysfunction has therapeutic potential for ASDs.

Pharmacological modulation of NMDAR function can improve ASD symptoms. D-cycloserine (DCS), an NMDAR agonist, significantly ameliorates social withdrawal  and repetitive behavior  in individuals with ASD.

These results suggest that reduced NMDAR function may contribute to the development of ASDs in humans. Elevated NMDAR function is also implicated in ASDs. Memantine, an NMDAR antagonist, and its analogue amantadine improve ASD-related symptoms including social deficits, inappropriate language, stereotypy, cognitive impairments, lethargy, irritability, inattention, and these results, together with the DCS results, highlight the importance of a normal range of NMDAR function, and suggest that deviation of NMDAR function in either direction leads to ASD.  This concept is in line with the emerging view that synaptic function within a normal range is important and its deviation causes ASDs and intellectual disability

Mice lacking neuroligin-1, an excitatory postsynaptic adhesion molecule, show reduced NMDAR function in the hippocampus and striatum, as evidenced by a decrease in NMDA/AMPA ratio and long-term potentiation (LTP) Neuroligin-1 is thought to enhance synaptic NMDAR function, by
directly interacting with and promoting synaptic localization of NMDARs.

CDPPB, a positive allosteric modulator of mGluR5 that potentiates similarly normalizes NMDAR Dysfunction and behavioral deficits, consistent with the idea that indirectly modulating NMDARs through mGluR5 is a viable approach for treating ASDs.

ASDs involve diverse core and comorbid symptoms. Consistent with this, a single autism-related mutation, neuroligin-3 R451C, causes diverse synaptic phenotypes in different brain regions and circuits. Therefore, synaptic changes should be analyzed in greater detail, ideally using brain region-specific and cell type-specific conditional gene ablation, as recently reported.

Modulators of mGluR5, in addition to NMDARs and AMPARs, have been considered to be a new means of regulating glutamatergic transmission. Therefore, pharmacological rescue of animal models of ASD should ideally involve modulation of both NMDARs and mGluR5, or even other NMDA-modulatory approaches, to better facilitate translation to clinical therapy.

Lastly, because our hypothesis associates bidirectional NMDAR dysfunction with ASDs, there may be clinical cases, such as where individuals with reduced NMDAR function are treated with NMDAR antagonists, which might aggravate the situation and affect the interpretation.



None of the existing autism therapies that modify NDMA receptors have been uniform knockout successes, but are effective in some cases.



These include:-

·        Memantine an NMDAR antagonist
·        D-Cycloserine an NMDAR agonist (the opposite of Memantine)

·        Ketamine, an NMDAR antagonist



So if you respond to Memantine, the chances are you would benefit from intranasal ketamine;  but D-Cycloserine would make you worse.

They recently terminated early the large Memantine autism trial.  In a rational world they would try D-Cycloserine on all those kids who failed to respond to Memantine.  We do not live in a rational world.



Conclusion

I have a feeling that several dysfunctions in autism, including the E/I imbalance of GABA, will ultimately be traced back to neuroligins.

This is an area of science in its infancy and so for today we have to treat the consequences individually. 

Fortunately, the Simons Foundation is funding the right people and so, in the end, we will get to the bottom of it all.




I hope the Taiwanese test Clioquinol on some humans with ASD and let us know the results.  

As the clever Korean researcher above has highlighted, Clioquinol will only benefit those with reduced NMDAR function.  So if I have got things the right way round, Clioquinol will help the same group that respond to D-Cycloserine.  The others would need Memantine/Ketamine, or even better, they have perfect NMDAR function and need nothing at all.








Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ketamine, Memantine, D-Cycloserin, Magnesium, Fenobam and yet more as Glutamatergic Modulators in Autism (and Fragile X)





 
Much of this blog to date has been connected with aspects related to the neurotransmitter GABA.  It did get rather complicated, but at least for me, it has been highly rewarding. I have identified treatable dysfunctions in Monty, aged 10 with ASD, using Bumetanide and now Clonazepam.

It is also clear that a group of people with autism also benefit from treatment with R-baclofen, a potent GABAB receptor agonist. R-baclofen/Arbaclofen and Arbaclofen Placarbil are not commercially available.  The commercially available drug Baclofen contains R-Baclofen and another substance that, in-effect, works to oppose it and so may be much less effective.

Based on the successful results of this investigation into GABA-related interventions, it would therefore make sense to look in detail at Glutamate, the other neurotransmitter that appears to be dysfunctional in many types of autism.

As with GABA dysfunctions, there are already are some existing treatments for glutamate dysfunctions.

While many researchers have concluded that glutamate is implicated in autism, some think, in effect, there is too much and some think there is too little.  Since we have learnt that in fact within “autism” are many discrete diseases, both groups of researchers might be right. 

In other types of neurological disorders glutamatergic modulators are an emerging therapy and there are many ongoing clinical trials.  Off-label, some of these therapies have been used for decades.  In autism there have been some trials over the years, but as seems to be often the case, they are not followed up to a final undisputed conclusion.  This may be about to change.

Yet again, the mineral Magnesium appears and there is yet another possible explanation for its apparent positive impact, in some cases of autism. 
I imagine that under the umbrella diagnosis of autism, there are those who have a GABA dysfunction and there are those that have a Glutamate dysfunction.  Just to complicate matters, if there is Serotonin dysfunction, this will affect both GABA and Glutamate.  So everything is inter-related and nothing is simple. Fortunately, in medicine, trial and error is a long trusted technique and “stumbled upon” is still a satisfactory explanation; we do not need to understand things 100%.

First we have to look at the terminology and in doing so we stumble upon a novel hypothesis as to what caused autism in the first place, which occurred to me today, but back in 2007 at the University of Mississippi.


Glutamate
Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter. Glutamate is involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory in the brain.  Too much glutamate can be extremely bad for you and research shows it leads to neuronal death, mental retardation and indeed autism. 

So called Glutamate transporters remove glutamate from the extracellular space. In brain injury or disease, they can work in reverse, and excess glutamate can accumulate outside cells. This process causes calcium ions to enter cells via NMDA receptor channels, leading to neuronal damage and eventual cell death;  this is called excitotoxicity.



So it is plausible that the root cause of the autism is actually a dysfunction of one of the glumate transporters.  The calcium ions are just the messenger.


There are 4 types of glutamate transporter. When there is a dysfunction the following is known to happen:-



·        Over activity of glutamate transporters may result in inadequate synaptic glutamate and may be involved in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses

·        During injury processes such as ischemia and traumatic brain injury, the action of glutamate transporters may fail, leading to toxic buildup of glutamate. 

·        Loss of the Na+-dependent glutamate transporter EAAT2 is suspected to be associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease



Excessive glumate release

Excitotoxicity due to excessive glutamate release and impaired uptake occurs as part of the ischemic cascade and is associated with stroke, autism, some forms of intellectual disability, and diseases like Alzheimer's disease.



Epilepsy and Calcium Channels

Glutamic acid has been implicated in epileptic seizures. Microinjection of glutamic acid into neurons produces spontaneous depolarisations around one second apart, and this firing pattern is similar to what is known as paroxysmal depolarizing shift in epileptic attacks. This change in the resting membrane potential at seizure foci could cause spontaneous opening of voltage-activated calcium channels, leading to glutamic acid release and further depolarization


Too much or too little Glutamate Activity?
Studies propose both hyper-and hypoglutamatergic ideologies for autism.






You may be thinking that somebody is clearly wrong here, but it is not so simple.  We will see later, when we get to the clever people at MIT, that in fact both views may be correct; in some people their autism is improved by inhibiting the specific receptor (mGluR5) and in other people by exciting the same receptor.

GABA & GAD

Glutamate also serves as the precursor for the synthesis of the inhibitory gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in GABA-ergic neurons. This reaction is catalyzed by glutamate decarboxylase (GAD), which is most abundant in the cerebellum and pancreas.

GAD is interesting in itself.  There are two types, GAD67 and GAD65
It appears that anti-GAD antibodies are the trigger that leads to diabetes.  Since the pancreas has abundant GAD, a direct immunological destruction occurs in the pancreas and the patients will have developed diabetes.

Diabetes

Both GAD67 and GAD65 are targets of autoantibodies in people who later develop type 1 diabetes or latent autoimmune diabetes. Injections with GAD65 has been shown to preserve some insulin production for 30 months in humans with type 1 diabetes

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Substantial dysregulation of GAD mRNA expression, coupled with down regulation of reelin, is observed in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The most pronounced down regulation of GAD67 was found in hippocampal stratum oriens layer in both disorders.

Parkinson disease

The bilateral delivery of GAD by an adeno-associated viral vector into the subthalamic nucleus of patients between 30 and 75 years of age with advanced, progressive, levodopa-responsive Parkinson disease resulted in significant improvement over baseline during the course of a six-month study

Cerebellar disorders

Intracerebellar administration of GAD autoantibodies to animals increase the excitability of motoneurons and impairs the production of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule involved in learning. Epitope recognition contributes to cerebellar involvement

Stiff Person Syndrome

Anti-GAD antibodies are associated with Stiff-person syndrome but their causal role is not yet established.

We have seen before that comorbidities of autism can point us in the right direction and also that many mental health / neurological disorders are overlapping.
So is not a surprise that a GAD dysfunction also exists in autism:-




“This suggests a disturbance in the intrinsic cerebellar circuitry in the autism group potentially interfering with the synchronous firing of inferior olivary neurons, and the timing of Purkinje cell firing and inputs to the dentate nuclei. Disturbances in critical neural substrates within these key circuits could disrupt afferents to motor and/or cognitive cerebral association areas in the autistic brain likely contributing to the marked behavioral consequences characteristic of autism.
Both GAD isoforms have been shown to be affected in a variety of psychiatric and developmental disorders. GAD67 has been implicated in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression disorder, and autism.
In animal studies, GAD65 is strongly implicated in anxiety.
Clinical research indicates that discrete cerebellar lesions, in otherwise healthy children, cause behavioral and/or cognitive impairments. In autism, however, cerebellar pathology is likely acquired during critical developmental period(s) when the brain is capable of constructing alternate innervation patterns. It is thus possible that there is a “miswiring” of key circuits in the autistic cerebellum with a developmental basis persisting into adulthood


We see again a form of self-destruction.  With arthritis the body destroys its joints and with diabetes, the pancreas is (partially) destroyed.
From the research it would appear that low levels of GAD67 and GAD65 played a critical role in the process that initiated the brain damage that led to autism.  Perhaps the low levels are the result of GAD antibodies.


GAD antibodies test as a predictor
There is a widely available of a GAD antibodies test.  Because diabetes is so common, it is also well researched.





So now back to autism.  Now, I am thinking that maybe pregnant mothers might have high levels of GAD antibodies and this might be passed on to the developing fetus, potentially causing brain damage (autism) or perhaps diabetes later in life.  Well, somebody has already come to the same conclusion.



“Conclusions

Studies of serum GAD-Abs in autism are warranted but have not been done so far. Positive findings would stimulate the development of specific prenatal diagnostic markers and therapeutics that may involve maternal administration of immunosuppressants to prevent the development of
autism or intravenous immunoglobulins therapy in children with emerging autistic symptoms.”

This again points towards immunomodulation as a therapy, this time for the mother.  Such treatment, in mothers with high GAD-Abs (GAB antibodies) might lead to a reduction is in cases of autism and indeed diabetes (type 1).

In the case of children and adults with autism, treatment with GAD65 or GAD67 might be effective, or it might just be too late to do any good.  This would be worthy of study.




Glutamate receptors

Glutamate receptors are responsible for the glutamate-mediated excitation of neural cells, and are important for neural communication, memory formation, learning, and regulation.
Glutamate receptors are implicated in a number of neurological conditions. Their central role in excitotoxicity and prevalence in the central nervous system has been linked or speculated to be linked to many neurodegenerative diseases, and several other conditions have been further linked to glutamate receptor gene mutations.

There are four types of glumate receptors.

The first three types are Ionotropic, and by definition, are ligand-gated nonselective cation channels that allow the flow of K+, Na+ and sometimes Ca2+ in response to glutamate binding.  Upon binding, the agonist will stimulate direct action of the central pore of the receptor, an ion channel, allowing ion flow and causing excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC). This current is depolarizing and, if enough glutamate receptors are activated, may trigger an action potential in the postsynaptic neuron


AMPA receptor
 
The fourth type is:_
 
These receptors are involved in Ca2+  and K+  ion channels and varying the concentration of Ca2+  and K+  
Glutamate binding to the extracellular region of an mGluR causes G proteins bound to the intracellular region to be phosphorylated, affecting multiple biochemical pathways and ion channels in the cell. Because of this, mGluRs can both increase or decrease the exitability of the postsynaptic cell, thereby causing a wide range of physiological effects.
 


Selected Conditions associated with Glumate Receptors (source Wikipedia)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

In 2006 the glutamate receptor subunit gene GRIN2B (responsible for key functions in memory and learning) was associated with ADHD.  This followed earlier studies showing a link between glutamate modulation and hyperactivity.

Further mutations to four different metabotropic glutamate receptor genes were identified in a study of 1013 paediatric ADHD patients compared to 4105 non-ADHD controls, replicated in a subsequent study of 2500 more patients. Deletions and duplications affected GRM1, GRM5, GRM7 and GRM8. The study concluded that "CNVs affecting metabotropic glutamate receptor genes were enriched across all cohorts (P = 2.1 × 10−9)", "over 200 genes interacting with glutamate receptors were collectively affected by CNVs", "major hubs of the (affected genes') network include TNIK50, GNAQ51, and CALM", and "the fact that children with ADHD are more likely to have alterations in these genes reinforces previous evidence that the GRM pathway is important in ADHD".


In 2012 UPenn and MIT teams have independently converged on mGluRs as players in ADHD and autism. The findings suggest agonizing mGluRs in patients with ADHD or certain forms of autism and antagonizing the targets in other forms of autism

 
Although the precise molecular basis of the interaction remains to be determined, the data show unambiguously that mGluR5 and FMRP act as an opponent pair in several functional contexts, and support the theory that many CNS symptoms in fragile X are accounted for by unbalanced activation of Gp1 mGluRs. These findings have major therapeutic implications for fragile X syndrome and autism.



Autism

The etiology of autism may include excessive glutaminergic mechanisms.
A link between glutamate receptors and autism was also identified via the structural protein ProSAP1/SHANK2 and potentially ProSAP2/SHANK3. The study authors concluded that the study "illustrates the significant role glutamatergic systems play in autism" and "By comparing the data on ProSAP1/Shank2−/− mutants with ProSAP2/Shank3αβ−/− mice, we show that different abnormalities in synaptic glutamate receptor expression can cause alterations in social interactions and communication. Accordingly, we propose that appropriate therapies for autism spectrum disorders are to be carefully matched to the underlying synaptopathic phenotype.

Seizures

Glutamate receptors have been discovered to have a role in the onset of epilepsy. NMDA and metabotropic types have been found to induce epileptic convulsions. Using rodent models, labs have found that the introduction of antagonists to these glutamate receptors helps counteract the epileptic symptoms.  Since glutamate is a ligand for ligand-gated ion channels, the binding of this neurotransmitter will open gates and increase sodium and calcium conductance. These ions play an integral part in the causes of seizures. Group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu1 and mGlu5) are the primary cause of seizing, so applying an antagonist to these receptors helps in preventing convulsions.




 Current and Future interventions


 
The possible interventions that follow from what we have learnt would appear to be:-
1.     Targeting NMDA glutamate receptor function
2.     Targeting mGluRs (metabotropic glutamate receptors)
3.     Targeting glutamate transporters
4.     GAD therapy

There would seem to be four possible areas of intervention.  The first one is to target the NMDA glutamate receptors using existing drugs and other three are cleverer, but only possible using experimental drugs. 
Very few pharmacological tools are currently available to investigate glumate transporter (EAAT) function and to then consider these transporters  as therapeutic targets, but even that is beginning to change.  Here is a Glutamate Transporter Inhibitor:-
 



I do like the idea of targeting GAD. It is possible to do it and the idea is being developed by a company called Neurologix as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  There are also working on epilepsy treatment.
 


"Neurologix's gene therapy approach to PD aims to reset the overactive brain cells to inhibit electrical activity and return brain network activity to more normal levels. The strategy involves restoring GABA and thus improving the patient's motor control by using an AAV vector (a disabled, non-pathogenic virus) to deliver the GAD gene back into the STN (subthalamic nucleus). Increasing GAD causes more GABA to be synthesized, thus helping to calm the STN over-activity."
 
They are calling it gene therapy for PD; I would call it GAD therapy.  I think GAD therapy might well be effective in some types of autism.
 

mGluRs

 
Targeting mGluRs is very much associated with a researcher called Mark Bear at MIT.  We came across him earlier in this blog, since he is also the man behind Arbaclofen, at Seaside Therapeutics.
 
This research is very recent and is linked to Fragile X.  Here is a PhD thesis written in 2013 by one of Mark Bear’s students, which seems to sum things up.
 



If you can follow my blog, you can definitely follow his thesis.  In effect, what he is saying is that errors in synaptic protein synthesis are behind several types of autism and that these errors can be corrected using either positive or negative stimulators of the receptor mGluR5.  It is clear that at Bear Lab, they view all autisms as part of a family, rather than discrete disorders.
 



















This would imply that positive allosteric modulators and negative allosteric modulators of MGluR5 are potentially effective autism treatments.  Another name would be MGluR5 agonist/antagonist.  Such drugs are already under study in both autism and other conditions.  Here are two examples.
 






Seaside Therapeutics, Roche and Novartis have each developed therapeutic compounds targeting the mGluR5 pathway.


Roche is developing RG7090, an inhibitor of mGluR5 that is currently in clinical trials. CTEP is a mouse version of RG7090.  One dose of CTEP, which can be taken orally, deactivates most mGLuR5 receptors in the brain for about 48 hours.


It took four weeks of continued treatment to see improvements in the behavioral features of the syndrome, including sensory sensitivities and problems with learning and memory.

 

Fenobam

 
Fenobam is an existing inhibitor of mGluR5, developed in the 1970s.  It was trialed in Fragile X in 2009 with good results using just a single dose.
 


“In summary, this trial did not find major safety concerns to a single administration of fenobam in FXS, and suggested that clinical improvements in behaviour and PPI may be seen even after a single dose. This would indicate that placebo controlled trials of fenobam and other mGluR5 antagonists involving longer term treatment of individuals with FXS should be considered to investigate whether rescue of the FXS phenotype observed in animal models can be extended to humans.”

Fenobam is being trialed byWashington University, but not for autism.
 



Current interventions

 
The current interventions are mainly NDMA receptor antagonists and are based on that trusted medical approach called trial and error, rather than the Bear Lab approach .  The drugs are:-

·        Ketamine
·        Memantine,
·        D-Cycloserine
·        Magnesium
·        Fenobam (mGluR5 inhibitor – see above, not FDA approved)
 


Chemicals that deactivate the NMDA receptor are called antagonists. NMDAR antagonists fall into four categories: 

  1. Competitive antagonists, which bind to and block the binding site of the neurotransmitter glutamate
  2. noncompetitive antagonists, which inhibit NMDARs by binding to allosteric sites
  3. Uncompetitive antagonists, which block the ion channel by binding to a site within it
  4. glycine antagonists, which bind to and block the glycine site







    Ketamine is a non-competitive antagonist.  It has recently been in the headlines for having a remarkable effect in some cases of depression.
    In large doses it is used as an anaesthetic particularly in children and pet animals.  It is also used as a recreational drug “Special K”, which is why it is a controlled substance.
    In small doses the intra-nasal route is favoured.  In effect the vial of ketamine normally administered by injection is diluted with a saline solution and put in a standard metered dose nasal spray.  It is also possible to make eye drops the same way.  The nasal/eye route is effective since the drug can enter the bloodstream without the need for an injection or a very ineffective oral tablet.
    A study is underway in Cincinnati to test intranasal ketamine on adults with autism.

    Dr. Logan Wink, Cincinnati Children's Hospital
    Start Date: 11/2013
    In a human clinical trial with 24 adults with Autism, researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital will conduct a pilot double-blind placebo controlled study of intranasal ketamine in adults with ASD using novel quantitative outcome measures of social and communication impairment.
    Ketamine has a unique drug profile clearly differentiated from other glutamatergic modulators (drugs that support the glutamate receptors) studied in ASD to date. This profile, coupled with ketamine’s long safety track record and novel intranasal (IN) delivery system, make ketamine worthy of drug investigation for treatment of the core features of ASD. As a generically available inexpensive drug, ketamine holds significant promise to widely treat the core social and communication impairments that are the hallmark of ASD. The results of this study, if positive, would support the use of a drug with a demonstrated safety profile that is cost-effective to use.
    If this pilot project demonstrates efficacy and tolerability of IN ketamine, the next steps will include the following. 1) Design and obtain funding for a large phase II placebo controlled trial of ketamine in adults with ASD. 2) Design a pilot study of ketamine in children with ASD. 3) Publish the data on the pilot study for other researchers and clinicians to use to support patients with ASD.

    Memantine is an uncompetitive agonist.  It has a modest effect in moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's disease.  It has been around for a long time, having been first synthesized in 1968.
    There are two other Alzheimer’s drugs that seem to be helpful in some types of autism.  They are Donepezil (Aricept) and  Galantamine   They are both centrally acting reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.  So they work in an entirely different way to Memantine.
    There have been several trials of Memantine in autism over the years.  Recently the producer, Forest Laboratories have been intensive trials to show its effectiveness and safety in childhood autism.
    In 2007 Michael Chez carried out a study:- 
                                 
    Open-label add-on therapy was offered to 151 patients with prior diagnoses of autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified over a 21-month period. To generate a clinician-derived Clinical Global Impression Improvement score for language, behavior, and self-stimulatory behaviors, the primary author observed the subjects and questioned their caretakers within 4 to 8 weeks of the initiation of therapy. Chronic maintenance therapy with the drug was continued if there were no negative side effects. Results showed significant improvements in open-label use for language function, social behavior, and self-stimulatory behaviors, although self-stimulatory behaviors comparatively improved to a lesser degree. Chronic use so far appears to have no serious side effects.
     Autism speaks have funded studies:-
     

    Even the Iranians have been trialing it, but as usual as an adjunct therapy.


    Forest Laboratories have a series of trials underway of Memantine in autism
    The full list is here
    It appears that Forest have terminated what was to be a two year study.  Here is a blog post by one of the parents:-
     
    D-Cycloserine is a glycine antagonist.  Its main use is as an antibiotic for treating drug resistant TB.  It is also used to treat drug addiction and social anxiety disorder.
    It has been investigated in both mouse models of autism and in humans.

    Abstract
    OBJECTIVE: The authors assessed the effects of d-cycloserine on the core symptom of social impairment in subjects with autism. METHOD: Following a 2-week, single-blind placebo lead-in phase, drug-free subjects with autistic disorder were administered three different doses of d-cycloserine during each of three 2-week periods. Measures used for subject ratings included the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale and Aberrant Behavior Checklist. RESULTS: Significant improvement was found on the CGI and social withdrawal subscale of the Aberrant Behavior Checklist. d-Cycloserine was well tolerated at most of the doses used in this study. CONCLUSIONS: In this pilot study, d-cycloserine treatment resulted in significant improvement in social withdrawal. Further controlled studies of d-cycloserine in autism appear warranted.
    Direct stimulation of NMDARs with D-cycloserine, a partial agonist of NMDARs, normalizes NMDAR function and improves social interaction in Shank22/2 mice.

    These results suggest that reduced NMDAR function may contribute to the development of ASD-like phenotypes in Shank22/2 mice, and mGluR modulation of NMDARs offers a potential strategy to treat ASD.
     
    Magnesium
    Magnesium is an uncompetitive NMDA channel blocker.  As you can see below on the diagram of the NMDA receptor site  (source Wikipedia)
     
    1. Cell membrane
    2. Channel blocked by Mg2+ at the block site (3)
    3. Block site by Mg2+
    4. Hallucinogen compounds binding site
    5. Binding site for Zn2+
    6. Binding site for agonists(glutamate) and/or antagonist ligands(APV)
    7. Glycosilation sites
    8. Proton biding sites
    9. Glycine binding sites
    10. Polyamines binding site
    11. Extracellular space
    12. Intracellular space

    Magnesium seems to have a therapeutic effect in some types of autism.  There are several possible reasons why this might be and these have been covered in earlier posts.  The idea of using magnesium to block dysfunctional NMDA receptors is intriguing.  It is clear from the graphic that the receptor has evolved with this specifically in mind.
    There are two simple ways to raise the concentration of magnesium, one is orally and the other is trans-dermally.  A problem with the oral route is that magnesium tends to upset the stomach and that is why it is used as laxative.
    The clever transdermal route is take a bath in Epsom salts (MgSO4) this will raise the level of magnesium (also sulphate).
    Many people take such baths to feel better and look better, but be aware they also will reduce your blood pressure.  Some celebrities claim to take a daily bath in Epsom salts.
    While some parents report that their child with ASD has behavioral improvements after an Epsom salt bath, in Monty, aged 10 with ASD, the reverse is true.  It does not make him calm, it agitates him.
    Since it is cheap and widely available, an Epsom salt bath is not a bad thing to try.  Maybe it helps and maybe it will not; you will only know by trying.
     
    Conclusion
    Most likely in some subtypes of autism there is too much (hyper-function) glutamate activity, in some subtypes there is too little (hypo-function) and in other sub-types glutamate function is not impaired at all.  This is again saying that sub-types are different diseases.
    For the time being, the only therapy would be one of trial and error with existing drugs.
    Intranasal ketamine therapy is intriguing, but this might be hard to get hold of unless you are in a clinical trial, or your neighbour is a vet.
     I have had very good success using ketamine eye drops in varying dilutions from 1:100 down to 1:5. Some of the responses have been quite remarkable. I also make ketamine nasal spray 1:25 and 1:10 and monitor its use because of a slight potential for abuse.”   Dr Jay Goldstein, treating various neurological disorders
    Memantine has now been trialed in over 1,000 children.  If it was highly effective in a large percentage of people, I think we would have heard about it.  It looks to be the "wrong" Alzheimer's drug , the other two, Donepezil and Galantamine seem more beneficial for ASD.


    One long-existing mGluR5 inhibitor, Fenebam, has already been trialed on people with Fragile X.  Until other drugs are developed, I wonder why this drug has been forgotten.
    In the medium term, the new mGluR5 positive and negative modulators look like they may be able to address core defects in some sub-types of autism.  This would be a case where hard science and medicine really did work as they should (i.e. together).  I would put my money on this being the most effective Glutamate-related therapy. 
    I personally like to look for the route cause, as far back up the chain of events as possible, to where the trouble began, and that might point to GAD therapy, but that is far in the future.