Showing posts with label Minocycline. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Minocycline. Show all posts

Friday, 9 June 2017

Garlic in Autism – Miscreant Microglia?  ACE inhibition? or even Nitric Oxide?

Many people avoid garlic because it gives you bad breath, but if you eat enough of it, it can be a potent drug.

There is a substantial amount of research about garlic and general health - it is consistently positive. However, there is an odd resistance to tell people about it.  A good example is this quote from the website of the UK’s National Health Service.

“Studies using high concentrations of garlic extracts have been associated with improved blood circulation, healthier cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, all of which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, current evidence does not support the use of garlic supplements to improve health.”

Which sounds like “garlic is really good for you, but don’t eat it”.
Garlic has numerous different modes of action that have a potential health benefit, the best known relate to your heart and circulation, but there are others. 

Garlic and Neurological Conditions with Activated Microglia

There is recent research showing positive effects on the activated microglia.  Activated microglia, the brain’s immune cells, is a feature of autism and other diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

Some people try and treat activated microglia in autism using therapies like:-

·        Minocycline

·        Ibudilast

Some researchers use garlic to try to minimize the damage caused by activated microglia.

They tend to use capsules that contain aged garlic.  It is important not to cook it and there is a difference between fresh garlic, aged garlic and steamed garlic. 

Table 1. Principal Organosulfur Compounds in Commercial Garlic Preparations
Principal Organosulfur Compounds
Delivers allicin-derived compounds?
Fresh garlic cloves
Cysteine sulfoxides (Alliin)
Yes, when chopped, crushed, or chewed raw.
Minimal, when garlic cloves are cooked before crushing or chopping.
Powdered garlic (tablets)
Cysteine sulfoxides (Alliin)
Varies greatly among commercial products.
Enteric-coated tablets that pass the USP allicin release test are likely to provide the most.
Steam distilled garlic oil (capsules)
Diallyl disulfide
Diallyl trisulfide
Allyl methyl trisulfide
Garlic oil macerate (capsules)
Diallyl trisulfide
Aged garlic extract™
(tablets or capsules)



Now, a new study finds that one of these compounds, called FruArg, may protect the brain from age-related disease like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

As a carbohydrate derivative of garlic, there’s a relatively high concentration of FruArg in aged garlic extract (AGE), the authors wrote — AGE is typically sold as supplements. Looking at isolated FruArg’s impact on brain cells, researchers from the University of Missouri found it could protect brain cells from an overexcited immune response caused by environmental factors like pollution and smoking, as well as normal aging, brain injuries, and drinking lots of alcohol.
“Microglia are immune cells in the brain and spinal cord that are the first and main line of defense in the central nervous system,” said lead author Zezong Gu, an associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the university’s School of Medicine. “Unlike other mature brain cells that seldom regenerate themselves, microglial cells respond to inflammation and environmental stresses by multiplying. By massing themselves and migrating toward an injury site, they are able to respond to inflammation and protect other brain cells from destruction.”
But microglia also tread a line between benefiting the body and harming it, protecting only to an extent. A byproduct of their function is nitric oxide, a free radical. And when a lot of microglia are produced, so are nitric oxide molecules, which can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation within the brain and nervous system. As we’ve all heard before, however, antioxidants fight oxidative stress, and in this case, that antioxidant compound is FruArg. 

For their study, Gu and his colleagues applied stress to a cell model of microglial cells and then added FruArg to them once nitric oxide concentrations rose. They found the microglial cells “adapted to the stress by reducing the amount of nitric oxide they produced.” What’s more, FruArg also promoted the production of antioxidants, which then went on to protect and heal other brain cells. “This helps us understand how garlic benefits the brain by making it more resilient to the stress and inflammation associated with neurological diseases and aging,” Gu said. 

Full study:- 

Collectively, these results suggest that AGE and FruArg attenuate neuroinflammatory responses and promote resilience in LPS-activated BV-2 cells by suppressing NO production and by regulating expression of multiple protein targets associated with oxidative stress. 

Effects of aged garlic (AGE) extract and FruArg on gene expression and signaling pathways in lipopolysaccharide-activated microglial cells 

These effects could be modulated by treatment with both AGE and FruArg. These findings suggests that AGE and FruArg are capable of alleviating oxidative stress and neuroinflammatory responses stimulated by LPS in BV-2 cells.



: The anti-neuroinflammatory capacities of raw and steamed garlic extracts as well as five organosulfur compounds (OSCs) were examined in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated BV2 microglia. According to those results, steaming pretreatment blocked the formation of alliinase-catalyzed OSCs such as allicin and diallyl trisulfide (DATS) in crushed garlic. Raw garlic, but not steamed garlic, dose-dependently attenuated the production of LPS-induced nitric oxide (NO), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1). DATS and diallyl disulfide at 200 and 400 μM, respectively, displayed significant anti-neuroinflammatory activity. Meanwhile, even at 1 mM, diallyl sulfide, S-allyl cysteine and alliin did not display such activity. Inhibition of nuclear factor-κB activation was the mechanism underlying this protective effect of raw garlic and DATS. Analysis results indicated that the anti-neuroinflammatory capacity of raw garlic is due to the alliin-derived OSCs. Importantly, DATS is a highly promising therapeutic candidate for treating inflammation-related neurodegenerative diseases.

As expected, raw garlic extract inhibited NO, proinflammatory cytokine, and chemokine production by through suppression of NF-κB activation in LPS-activated BV2 microglia; it also had a potent anti-neuroinflammatory capacity. Additionally, steaming pretreatment abolished both the anti-neuroinflammatory capacity and alliin-derived OSCs formation of garlic simultaneously. In sum, this study demonstrates that alliinase catalysis and chemical transformation are essential for the formation of active OSCs, which are responsible for the anti-neuroinflammatory capacity of garlic. Based on above, it is suggested that consumers to crush or cut raw garlic before cooking in order to obtain more health benefits of garlic. As one of the most potent anti-neuroinflammatory components of garlic, DATS is highly promising for use as a dietary agent to prevent inflammation-related neurodegenerative disease. 

Garlic as an ACE inhibitor 

We saw in a recent post how too much angiotensin II is likely a problem in schizophrenia and some autism.  The biomarker of those affected would be high levels of IL-17a. 

There are numerous references in the literature to garlic being an ACE inhibitor, which will reduce the level of angiotensin II and hence IL-17 and IL-17a. 

Although garlic extract administration had no significant effect on serum glucose, it significantly strongly decreased the serum ACE activity. ACE activity was higher in diabetic than nondiabetic rats, but in diabetic animals treated with garlic extract, the elevation of ACE activity did not occur. These results suggest that garlic extract might have value as ACE inhibitor to prevent some vascular complications of diabetes mellitus.

So perhaps some people with autism, who respond to garlic are actually not feeling the microglia effect, but actually the angiotensin II reducing effect. 

Activation of calcium-dependent nitric oxide synthase and the subsequent production of nitric oxide is probably the most novel mechanism yet claimed by which garlic can exert its therapeutic properties.


Garlic has numerous health benefits and different types of processing lead to very different chemical compositions.  So it does depend how you take your garlic.

Does any type of garlic provide a benefit in any type of autism? 
For one reader fresh garlic is effective in treating autism, whereas aged garlic is not; this is not what she expected. This would of course suggest something about its mode of action. 
Perhaps some people are actually benefiting from a reduction in angiotensin II.  Or maybe it is production of nitric oxide?
There are actually other natural ACE inhibitors that you might be using by accident.
People trying to make tasty drinkable sulforaphane, using the Australian mixture of broccoli and pomegranate powders, are actually also making an ACE inhibitor.  

The results suggest that the PJ extract could prevent the development of high blood pressure induced by Ang II in diabetic rats probably by combating the oxidative stress induced by diabetes and Ang II and by inhibiting ACE activity.

All we can say is some people with autism respond to specific types of garlic, but nobody can be sure what the mode of action is; there are several possible credible explanations.  

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

“Autism treatments proposed by clinical studies and human genetics are complementary” & the NSAID Ponstan as a Novel Autism Therapy

Today’s post was not my idea at all, it was the author of one of the papers who has drawn my attention to the subject.

Genetic studies are complicated and are not the sort of thing I would have chosen to read, let alone write about, before starting this blog. 

The optimal time to initiate pharmacological 
intervention in Autism?

However, much of the complex subject matter has now already been covered, step by step, in earlier posts. Regular readers should not feel put off.

It is perhaps easier to think about ion channel dysfunctions, or channelopathies.  Some of the key genetic dysfunctions produce these channelopathies.  There are many posts in this blog about channelopathies, partly because many therapies already exist to treat them.

Then we have the complex signaling pathways which are often the subject of cancer research, but we have seen that certain ones like RAS and PTEN are key to conditions like some autism and some MR/ID.

So it is not a big leap therefore to consider the findings of a statistical reassessment of the existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS).  As is often the case in medical science, it is the acronyms/abbreviations, like GWAS, that make it look more complex than it really is.

If you only ever read one paper about the genetics of autism, I suggest you make it this one.

Fortunately, the conclusion from the genetic study really fits nicely with the clinical studies reviewed on this blog and even my own first-hand experience of investigating and treating my n=1 case of autism.

Knut, the Biometrician

It was Knut who left a brief comment on this blog and, after a little digging, I was very surprised how much a statistician/biometrician could figure out about autism, from re-analyzing the existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS).

I think the Simons Foundation could save themselves a decade or two by giving him a call.

The Research

For those wanting the science-lite version, there is a short article reviewing the research in lay terms:-

Biostatistics provides clues to understanding autism: an interview with Dr Knut M. Wittkowski

“Hence, modulation of ion channels in children at the age of about 12 months, when the first symptoms of autism can be detected, may prevent progression to the more severe end of the spectrum.” .

The actual research paper is here:-

You may find it heavy going and I have highlighted some key parts.

A novel computational biostatistics approach implies impaired dephosphorylationof growth factor receptors as associated with severity of autism

“Despite evidence for a likely involvement of de novo and environmental or epigenetic risk factors, including maternal antibodies or stress during pregnancy  and paternal age, we contend that coding variations contribute substantially to the heritability of ASD and can be successfully detected and assembled into connected pathways with GWAS—if the experimental design, the primary outcome, the statistical methods used, and the decision rules applied were better targeted toward the particulars of non-randomized studies of common diseases.”

The data comes from the Autism Genome Project (AGP), and there are two sets of data AGPI and AGPPII.

The third data set is for Childhood Absence Epilepsy (CAE)

What I would call Classic Autism, others call severe autism or autistic disorder; Knut calls it Strict Definition Autism (SDA).  HFA is high functioning autism, much of which is Asperger’s Syndrome.

“Study design We aimed at risk factors specific to strict definition autism (SDA) by comparing case subpopulations meeting the definition of SDA and milder cases with ASD (excluding SDA), for which we here use the term ‘highfunctioning autism’ (HFA). To reduce variance, we included only subjects of European ancestry genotyped on the more frequently used platform in either stage. In AGP II, we also excluded female cases because of confounding between chip platform and disease severity. The total number of subjects included (m: male/f: female) was 547/98 (SDA) and 358/68 (HFA) in AGP I and 375 (SDA) and 201 (HFA) in AGP II.

Overall, the results (see Supplementary Figure 1 for a Manhattan plot) are highly consistent with previously proposed aspects of the etiology of ASD. The clusters of genes implicated in both of the independent stages (Figure 2a/b) consistently overlap with our published CAE results (Figure 2c), confirming the involvement of ion channels (top right) and signaling downstream of RAS (bottom left), with two noticeable additional gene clusters in ASD. Both stages implicate several genes involved in deactivation of growth factor (GF) receptors (Figure 2a/b, top left) as ASD-specific risk factors and chloride (Cl − ) signaling, either through Ca2+ activated Cl− channels

Click to enlarge the figure 

A new term is PTPR (protein tyrosine phosphatases receptor), just to confuse us it is also called RPTP.

Receptor Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases in Nervous System Development


For example, the receptor protein tyrosine phosphatases gamma (PTPRG) and zeta (PTPRZ) are expressed primarily in the nervous system and mediate cell adhesion and signaling events during development.

In an earlier post I highlighted the numerous dysfunctions in growth factors (GF) in autism.  Knut is highlighting here the effect of PTPR on growth factors.  Later it is suggested that this cascade of GF dysfunctions could be halted, pharmacologically if it was identified very early.  But, as Courchesne from UC San Diego noted, by the time people have been identified as having autism, around three years old, the accelerated brain growth has already run its course.

You would need to intervene around one year old.

Broad evidence for involvement of PTPRs One of the most striking observations is the involvement of at least five PTPRs in ASD (Figure 2, 10 o’clock position). PTPRs (Table 1e) regulate GF signaling through reversible protein tyrosine dephosphorylation.72 PTPRT (90th/20th, 8.57) was implicated in ASD by a deletion73 (Table S2 AU018704) and a somatic mutation

It was my post pondering the reasons for the positive effect of potassium supplementation that drew Knut’s attention to this blog.  Now we move on to Knut’s ideas on potassium and chloride channels.

K+ and Cl− ion channels as drug targets

Aside from PTPRs (Figure 2, 10 o’clock) as a risk factor for protracted GF signaling, our results suggest a second functional cluster of genes, involved in Cl− transport and signaling, as specific to ASD (Table 1f). In AGP I, the CaCCs ANO4 and ANO7 scored 1st and 70th, respectively. In AGP II, the lysosome membrane H+ /Cl- exchange transporter CLCN7 scored 21st, followed by CAMK2A, which regulates ion channels, including anoctamins82 (55th), and LRRC7 (densin-180), which regulates CAMK2A83 (Figure 2a/b, 2 o’clock). The role of the anoctamins in pathophysiology is not well understood, except that CaCC activity in some neurons is predicted to be excitatory84 and to have a role in neuropathic pain or nerve regeneration. More recently, CaCCs have also been suggested as involved in ‘neurite (re)growth’. Finally, we compared the HFA and SDA cases as separate groups against all parental controls in the larger AGP I population. Overall, the level of significance is lower and the enrichment is less pronounced, especially for the SDA cases (Supplementary Figure 9), as expected when cases and some controls are related. For the HFA cases (Figure 4, and Supplementary Figure 8), however, a second anoctamin, ANO2, located on the other arm of chromosome 12, competes with ANO4 (Figure 1, left), for the most significant gene among the result. Hence, drugs targeting anoctamins might have broader benefits for the treatment of ASD than in preventing progression to more severe forms of autism. ANO2 and ANO6 are associated with panic disorder and major depressive disorder, respectively. ANO3, ANO4, ANO8 and ANO10, but not ANO1, are also expressed in neuronal tissue.86 As ‘druggable channels’, anoctamins ‘may be ideal pharmacological targets to control physiological function or to correct defects in diseases’.  Few drugs, however, target individual anoctamins or even exclusively CaCCs. Cl− channel blockers such as fenamates, for instance, may decrease neuronal excitability primarily by activating Ca2+-dependent outward rectifying K+ channels.

Here is a follow-up paper with consideration of the possible next steps.

Gene gene environment behavior development interaction at the core of autism:

Here, we combine a recent wide-locus approach with novel decision strategies fine-tuned to GWAS. With these methodological advances, mechanistically related clusters of genes and novel treatment options, including prevention of more severe forms of ASD, can now be suggested from studies of a few hundred narrowly defined cases only.
(Nonsyndromic) autism starts with largely unknown prenatal events (: age, : virus/stress ...)
• Mutations in growth factor regulators (PTPRs) lead to neuronal overgrowth (brain sizes).
• Mutations in K+/Cl− channels cause Ca2+ mediated over excitation of neurons (“intense world”).
• Stressful environments (urbanization) contribute to epistatic interaction (increasing prevalence).
• This GGE interaction causes “migraine-like” experiences during the “stranger anxiety” period where children learn verbal/social skills, leading to behavioral maladaptation (“tune-out”).
The lack of verbal/social stimuli causes “patches of disorganization” (Stoner 2014, NEJM) as a form of developmental maladaptation when underutilized brain areas are permanently “pruned”. The PTPRs point to a short window of opportunity (WoO) for pharmacological intervention:
• Treatment has to begin as early as possible, while neurons are still growing (12 months of age. Broad support for the proposed unifying etiology and the 2nd year of life as the WoO:
• Regression (“loss of language”) seen in some children >12 mos of age.
• “Patches of disorganization” in >2 yr old brains.
• Romanian orphans developed “quasi-autism” when placed into foster care at >24 mos of age. 
• Hearing impairment leading to intellectual disability when diagnosed >24 mos of age.

 A rational drug target: treating either of two epistatic risk factors suffices:
• Blocking growth factors (Gleevac, ...) is unacceptable in children merely at risk of ASD.
• Ion channel modulators have been used in small children for arthritis and seizures.

Here is a response to Knut’s first paper from a professor at the UCLA medical school who suggests the combination of the specific NSAID and bumetanide. 
The professor would better understand the mechanism of action of bumetanide in autism if he read Ben Ari’s research more thoroughly, or even this blog.
The article by Wittkowski et al.1 reports results of human genetic studies that suggest that a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) given for a few months from the time of the first symptoms might help some children who are at risk of developing more severe forms of atrial septal defect.
While the authors mention the recent article by Lemonnier et al.,2 which reported that a clinical study of the diuretic Bumetanide was partially effective in children with milder forms of autism, they seem to have overlooked that these two treatments may well be complementary, leading to sequential interventions, each targeting specific risks related to well-defined stages in the development of brain and social interactions.
Since abnormal brain development in autistic disorder goes through different stages from infancy to childhood, targeting different developmental stages with different treatment interventions may well be necessary to foster continued normalization of brain growth.
Bumetanide is known to block inward chloride transporters, yet the relation of this mechanism to the etiology of autism is unknown. Wittkowski et al. identified mutations in calcium-activated (outward) chloride channels as associated with autistic disorder, suggesting loss-of-function mutations in anoctamins as one of the risk factors for autism. This provides a testable hypothesis for the mechanism by which Bumetanide alleviates symptoms of autism. For example, mouse models could test whether Bumetanide ameliorates a stress-induced phenotype caused by a knockout/down in ANO2 and/or ANO4.
A second cluster of genes identified receptor protein tyrosine phosphatases, which downregulate growth factors. These findings support the notion that successful treatment should start as early as possible,3 while neuronal development still takes place.
The rationale for combining these two treatments rests on the fact that Bumetanide is contraindicated in infancy because it is known to interfere with neuronal development when used long term. In contrast, the NSAID proposed in the second study has been given for decades to children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis from 6 months of age on, with no adverse effects on brain development. It is known to modulate chloride channels (see above) as well as potassium channels.4
In conclusion, I wish to extend their hypothesis based on the synergy of the two treatment approaches: (1) early treatment with NSAID can reduce early maladaptive behaviors that cause abnormal pruning of neurons in the cortical areas; (2) these children could subsequently benefit from Bumetanide, which would compensate for the primary ion channel defect, but could not reverse the secondary effect of abnormal pruning.
This hypothesis allows for a novel two-way interaction between behavior and molecular events. Traditionally, one assumes that molecular events determine behavior. The new hypothesis, based on human genetics, also allows for symptoms (such as the absence of social interactions, delayed speech onset and language development) during certain sensitive periods to change molecular events (pruning of neurons in areas required for normal development).

Therapeutic implications from the genetic analysis

Some of the therapies that Knut is proposing, based on the genetic analysis, have already been reviewed in this blog.  Some have not.  A few therapeutic ideas in this blog actually target genes Knut has identified, but not highlighted a therapy.

I will just review the drugs and genes that the above study highlights.


Low dose clonazepam fits in this category.  We have the work of Professor Catterall to support its use.  At higher doses, benzodiazepines have different effects but use is associated with various troubling side effects.


Bumetanide is at the core of my suggested therapy for classic autism or what Knut calls SDA (strict definition autism).  We have Ben-Ari to thank for this

Fenamates (ANO 2/4/7 & KCNMA1)

Here Knut is trying to target the ion channels expressed by the genes ANO 2/4/7 & KCNMA1. 

·        ANO 2/4/7 are calcium activated chloride channels. (CACCs)

·        KCNMA1 is a calcium activated potassium channel.  KCNMA1 encodes the ion channel KCa1.1, otherwise known as BK (big potassium).  This was the subject of post that I never got round to publishing.
Fenamates are an important group of clinically used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but they have other effects beyond being anti-inflammatory.  They act as CaCC inhibitors and also stimulate BKCa channel activity.

Fenamates stimulate BKCachannel osteoblast-like MG-63 cells activity in the human.

 The fenamates can stimulate BKCa channel activity in a manner that seems to be independent of the action of these drugs on the prostaglandin pathway”

Molecular and functional significance of Ca2+-activated Cl− channels in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle

Of this “first generation” of CaCC inhibitors, NFA (a fenamate called niflumic acid)  is the most potent blocker of these channels and the compound most frequently used to investigate the physiological role of CaCCs”

Choice of Fenamate
There are several fenamate-type NSAIDs, but one is a very well used generic drug, Mefenamic acid known as Ponstan, Ponalar, Ponstyl, Ponstel and other generic names.  It is even available as a syrup for children.
 It is not available in all countries.


Gabapentin is used primarily to treat seizures and neuropathic pain. It is also commonly prescribed for many off-label uses, such as treatment of anxiety disorders, insomnia, and bipolar disorder.

Some people with autism are prescribed Gabapentin.  Some people suffer side effects and others do not.

If you have a dysfunction of voltage operated calcium channels, Gabapentin should help.


This is all about modifying NMDA receptors.  Memantine is but one method.


Minocycline is an antibiotic with several little known extra properties.  In autism, we looked at its ability to reduce microglial activation and so improve autism.  A clinical trial showed that it did not help autism.

Minocycline also affects MMP-9.  MMP-9 is an enzyme found to be associated with numerous pathological processes, including cancer, immunologic and cardiovascular diseases.

High MMP-9 activity levels in fragile X syndrome are lowered by minocycline.

 “ The results of this study suggest that, in humans, activity levels of MMP-9 are lowered by minocycline and that, in some cases, changes in MMP-9 activity are positively associated with improvement based on clinical measures.

So if you are treating a case of Fragile-X, or partial "Fragile-X-like" autism, better take note.


Rapamycin and mTOR was the subject of the following post:

mTOR – Indirect inhibition, the Holy Grail for Life Extension and Perhaps Some Autism

Both too much and too little mTOR can occur in autism.


My conclusion is probably different to yours.

For me, it seems that all the pieces really are fitting together and so this blog on the cause and treatment of classic autism will eventually cover the current scientific knowledge, in its entirety.  No complex areas are off limits, because in the end they are not as complex as they seem, when you lift the veil of jargon and acronyms.

From the all-important therapeutic perspective, new insights from today’s post are:-

·        Those with a dysfunction of voltage operated calcium channels might want to give Gabapentin (Neurontin) a try.

·        The fenamate-type NSAID mefenamic acid,  widely known as Ponstan, really should be tested, either at home, or in a clinical trial.

This statistical analysis is based on “all autism”, so any one person would be highly unlikely to have all the mentioned dysfunctions.  These are the most common genetic dysfunctions and many can both hypo and hyper, as in the case of NMDA dysfunctions and indeed mTOR. 

In Knut’s chart, I would add a green line pointing to RAS and PTEN with the word Atorvastatin.  Baclofen would point to the growth factors.  Verapamil would point in multiple places.

The motto of University of Tübingen, where Knut originally comes from, is Attempto !  The Latin for "I dare".

This might be a useful motto for readers of this blog, and also a good tittle for a book on treating autism.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Primary and Secondary Dysfunctions in Autism - plus Candesartan

Sometimes the secondary event can completely overshadow the primary event.  
The above relates to dust explosions (in large silos containing grain, sugar etc.) rather than autism.

As we continue to investigate the science behind autism and associated possible therapies, it is becoming necessary to introduce some further segmentation.

I have referred to autism “flare-ups” many times, but even that term means very different things to different people.

We now have many examples of autism treatments (NAC, Bumetanide etc), once effective, suddenly stopping working in certain people.  This needs explaining.

We know from the research that in most cases, autism is caused by multiple “hits”, only when taken together do they lead to autism.

We also see the “double tap” variety of autism, when relatively mild autism later develops into something more serious, following some event, or trigger.  

Thanks to the internet, we know have numerous n=1 examples of certain drugs showing a positive effect in some people.  You do have to discount all those people trying to sell you something, or support the cause of others trying to sell you something.  We also have full access to all those people who have patented their clever ideas, although 99% never develop them.

Within all this information there are some very useful insights, which can help further our understanding of autism


A case in point is Candesartan, which one reader of this blog brought to my attention, in the comment below.  This drug is used to treat high blood pressure and is often combined with a diuretic.

A very recent study relating to neurodegenerative disease and Parkinson's especially:

discusses the use of a new drug as well as another blood pressure drug sometimes used in conjunction with Bumetanide called Candesartan. Their goal in this study was to explore how to attenuate chronic microglial activation (a hallmark of autism) by targeting toll-like receptors TLR1 and TLR2 via these two drugs.

Candesartan also modulates NKCC2 activity:

which is interesting considering the original cited research above deals with attenuating microglial activation, rather than modulating the chloride levels within GABA inhibitory neurons as Bumetanide does.

Note that Bumetanide affects both NKCC1 and NKCC2 transporters.  NKCC1 is present in the brain at birth, but should not be present in the adult brain.  However, it appears to remain in a large sub-group of those with autism, causing GABA to remain excitatory.  NKCC2 is found specifically in the kidney, where it serves to extract sodium, potassium, and chloride from the urine so that they can be reabsorbed into the blood

This drug is, along with Minocycline, is one of the few that is known to have an effect on microglial activation.

In a clinical trial, Minocycline was shown to have no effect on autism.

I do feel this kind of assessment is too simplistic; so I was interested to see the actual effect of Candesartan in autism, albeit with n=1.

Conveniently somebody has filed a patent for the use of Candesartan in autism.  Within the document is the n=1 case report of its effect.

[00047] A 16 year old boy with autism was evaluated for behavioral management. He was frequently aggressive, primarily directed to himself but to others as well. These episodes were usually unprovoked but would also occur when his parents attempted to re direct him. The child was essentially non verbal except for echolalia. His comprehension to verbal re direction was limited, making non pharmacological interventions to his aggression limited.

[00048] His neurological exam was otherwise normal.

[00049] An MRI, EEG were normal. Routine studies, including examination for fragile x and other metabolic disorders were negative.

[00050] Prior medication trials included anti convulsants which were without benefit and atypical neuroleptics, which resulted in weight gain and unsatisfactory effects on behavior.

[00051] After obtaining consent from his parents, Candesartan was started. An initial dose of 8 mg resulted in significant attenuation of aggressive behavior. Blood pressure remained stable. After 2 weeks, the dose was raised to 16 mg. Further improvement in aggression was noted with no adverse lowering of blood pressure.

[00052] The patient has remained on Candesartan with beneficial anti aggression effects being maintained over one year.

[00053] A preferred dose found by the inventor to treat autism is approximately O.lmg/kg. In children, a liquid form may be used.

So we can conclude from this that in a non-verbal 16 year old boy with autism, with significant aggressive tendencies, this drug successfully reduced aggression.  Since he was on the drug for a year, there were no other major changes, such as language or cognitive function, otherwise they would surely be mentioned to support the patent.

I can of course look further into why Candesartan might have been effective.

Our blog reader suggested this research:-

"The real job of microglia is to keep the brain healthy by getting rid of pathogens as well as cellular debris," says Maguire-Zeiss, "However, in a diseased state microglia can become chronically activated, leading to a continuous onslaught of inflammation which is damaging to the brain."
In this study, the Maguire-Zeiss lab found that only a certain size structures of misfolded α-synuclein can activate microglial cells -- normal protein and even smaller forms of misfolded α-synuclein cannot. Then the researchers sought to discover precisely how microglia responded to misfolded α-synuclein; that is, which of its many "pattern recognition receptors" reacted to the toxic protein.
Microglia use many different pattern recognition proteins, called toll-like receptors (TLR), to recognize potential threats. The investigators found that misfolded α-synuclein caused TLR1 and TLR2 to come together into one complex (receptor), creating TLR1/2. They traced the entire molecular pathway from the protein's engagement of TLR1/2 at the cell surface to the production of inflammatory molecules.
Then Maguire-Zeiss and her team tested a drug, developed by researchers at the University of Colorado, which specifically targets TLR1/2. They also tested the hypertension drug candesartan, which can target TLR2. Both agents significantly reduced inflammation.

I found some other possible explanations:-

Brain inflammation has a critical role in the pathophysiology of brain diseases of high prevalence and economic impact, such as major depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and traumatic brain injury. Our results demonstrate that systemic administration of the centrally acting angiotensin II AT1 receptor blocker (ARB) candesartan to normotensive rats decreases the acute brain inflammatory response to administration of the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a model of brain inflammation. The broad anti-inflammatory effects of candesartan were seen across the entire inflammatory cascade, including decreased production and release to the circulation of centrally acting proinflammatory cytokines, repression of nuclear transcription factors activation in the brain, reduction of gene expression of brain proinflammatory cytokines, cytokine and prostanoid receptors, adhesion molecules, proinflammatory inducible enzymes, and reduced microglia activation. These effects are widespread, occurring not only in well-known brain target areas for circulating proinflammatory factors and LPS, that is, hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and the subfornical organ, but also in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. Candesartan reduced the associated anorexic effects, and ameliorated associated body weight loss and anxiety. Direct anti-inflammatory effects of candesartan were also documented in cultured rat microglia, cerebellar granule cells, and cerebral microvascular endothelial cells. ARBs are widely used in the treatment of hypertension and stroke, and their anti-inflammatory effects contribute to reduce renal and cardiac failure. Our results indicate that these compounds may offer a novel and safe therapeutic approach for the treatment of brain disorders.

However the underlying mechanism may indeed be (yet again) activating PPAR γ.

Involvement of PPAR-γ in the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of angiotensin type 1 receptor inhibition: effects of the receptor antagonist telmisartan and receptor deletion in a mouse MPTP modelof Parkinson's disease

This paper suggests that the effect of Candesartan on microglia is :-

"Several recent studies have shown that angiotensin type 1 receptor (AT1) antagonists such as candesartan inhibit the microglial inflammatory response and dopaminergic cell loss in animal models of Parkinson's disease. However, the mechanisms involved in the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of AT1 blockers in the brain have not been clarified. A number of studies have reported that AT1 blockers activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR γ). PPAR-γ activation inhibits inflammation, and may be responsible for neuroprotective effects, independently of AT1 blocking actions."

Primary Autism Dysfunctions

I define Primary Autism Dysfunctions as those core dysfunctions that are always present.

So in the case of Monty, aged 11 with ASD, the primary dysfunctions include:-

·        GABAA dysfunction, due to over expression of NKCC1,  leading to excitatory imbalance
·        Oxidative stress

In some other people the primary dysfunctions are quite different:-

·        Mitochondrial disease

·        etc...

I think that most aggressive behavior resulting from these dysfunctions can be traced back to communication problems and frustration.  So if the person is non-verbal and cannot get what he/she wants, aggression may follow; or if the person has pain and cannot understand it or seek help he may lash out at his care giver.

Secondary Autism Dysfunctions

I define Secondary Autism Dysfunctions as additional dysfunctions that can appear and disappear over time, these are my "flare-ups".

These dysfunctions can be more disabling that the Primary Autism Dysfunctions and it appears these are the dysfunctions that may trigger un-prompted self-injury and other random aggression.

These secondary dysfunctions can be so strong that they completely outweigh the primary dysfunction, giving the effect that the treatment for the primary dysfunction has “stopped working”.

It appears that many  Secondary Autism Dysfunctions are linked to an “over activated immune system”.  It does appear that from the research that activated microglia is an expression of this immune state and we saw one researcher calling the microglia the brain's “immunostat”. 

So in the case of Monty, aged 11 with ASD, the secondary dysfunctions are:-

·        over activated immune system / activated microglia
·        mast cell degranulation as a trigger
·        Il-6 from dissolving milk teeth as a trigger
·        Emotional distress (aged 8, when his long-time assistant left) as trigger (Emotional distress is known to cause oxidative stress)

In other people the secondary dysfunctions may be similar or quite different, for example:-

·        over activated immune system / activated microglia
·        leaky gut with GI problems as a trigger
·        food intolerance as a trigger
·        bacterial infection, with remission while on antibiotics, as a trigger
·        etc …

So I think the trial of Minocycline may have failed because the subjects were only affected by Primary Autism Dysfunctions.

I think the 16 year old aggressive boy in the Candersartan patent most likely had big Secondary Autism Dysfunctions.  The drug reduced microglial activation and so damped the effect of whatever his particular triggers were.

So probably Minocycline should be trialed again, but only in people with autism and regular SIB and aggression.  Success would be measured as a reduction in violent events.

Drugs targeting Primary Autism Dysfunctions should show things like:-

·        Cognitive improvement
·        Increased speech
·        Improved social interactions
·        Reduction in stereotypy
·        Reduction in anxiety (in higher functioning cases)

So I could classify my own interventions as


·        Bumetanide
·        Low dose Clonazepam
·        NAC
·        Sulforaphane (broccoli)
·        Atorvastatin
·        Potassium


·        Verapamil
·        Sytrinol/Tangeretin PPAR-γ agonist for microglia

·        Occasional use of Ibuprofen (anti IL-6 therapy)
·        Quercetin/Azelastine/ Fluticasone Propionate for mast cells

The over activated immune system/activated microglia needs a trigger

Just like a modern plastic explosive is completely harmless to touch and needs the combination of extreme heat and shock wave from a detonator, it appears that the activated microglia, commonly found in autism, is in itself harmless, like Play-Doh, without a trigger.

But with a trigger, you probably know what can happen next.

What about all those failed clinical trials? False Negatives?

So now you not only need to match the trial therapy with the correct sub-type of autism, but you also cannot reliably trial a drug for a Primary Dysfunction, if there is an "active" Secondary Dysfunction.

This is indeed the reason why I do not try new therapies during the summer pollen season.

Perhaps this partly explains why clinical trials in autism always seem to fail.