Showing posts with label mitochondria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mitochondria. Show all posts

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Lethargy and Autism


That alternative world, where you fix things when they are not working

I do sometimes forget the world that most people live in, when it comes to (not) understanding and (not) treating autism.

I decided to write this post on lethargy and autism, after being prompted by a friend who contacted me and told me that his son with autism is very lethargic (physically and mentally). I replied with the suggestion that he try a little scoop of Agmatine Sulphate.  Now his son is able to go for long walks, without constantly wanting to stop for a rest.  The Dad asked me to share his positive experience with Agmatine.

A few years ago, this boy was diagnosed by Dr Kelley with mitochondrial dysfunction.  People with mitochondrial dysfunction should indeed have poor exercise endurance, this is because they lack the enzymes needed in a process called oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS).  OXPHOS is the metabolic pathway in which cells use enzymes to oxidize nutrients, thereby releasing the chemical energy in the form of ATP.  If you run low on ATP you need to sit and take a rest.

You can run low on ATP for reasons other than a lack of these mitochondrial enzyme complexes. You also need enough glucose and oxygen.

Agmatine has numerous modes of action.  It affects the following (and more): -

·         Neurotransmitter receptors and receptor ionophores. Nicotinic, imidazoline I1 and I2, α2-adrenergic, glutamate NMDAr, and serotonin 5-HT2A and 5HT-3 receptors.

·         Ion channels. Including: ATP-sensitive K+ channels, voltage-gated Ca2+ channels, and acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs).

·         Membrane transporters. Agmatine specific-selective uptake sites, organic cation transporters (mostly OCT2 subtype), extraneuronal monoamine transporters (ENT), polyamine transporters, and mitochondrial agmatine specific-selective transport system.

·         Nitric oxide (NO) synthesis modulation. Both differential inhibition and activation of NO synthase (NOS) isoforms is reported.[9][10]

·         Polyamine metabolism. Agmatine is a precursor for polyamine synthesis, competitive inhibitor of polyamine transport, inducer of spermidine/spermine acetyltransferase (SSAT), and inducer of antizyme.

·         Protein ADP-ribosylation. Inhibition of protein arginine ADP-ribosylation.

·         Matrix metalloproteases (MMPs). Indirect down-regulation of the enzymes MMP 2 and 9.

·         Advanced glycation end product (AGE) formation. Direct blockade of AGEs formation.

·         NADPH oxidase. Activation of the enzyme leading to H2O2 production.[11]


I did make the chart below a couple of years ago to figure out why Agmatine would give such an energy boost, and see how all these substances fit in with each other.  My conclusion was that an increase in endothelial nitric oxide was a plausible explanation, since the effect is fast.

Agmatine increases the enzyme eNOS which the leads to nitic oxide (NO) being produced in endothelial cells, this triggers a series of steps that results in vascular relaxation, which means more blood flow.

More blood flow means more glucose and oxygen to fuel mitochondria to make ATP.


When I did a quick Google search for “Lethargy and Autism”, I was surprised to find an entirely different explanation from the “old world”, where autism is still untreatable, at the UK’s National Autistic Society.


Autistic fatigue - a guide for parents and carers

Exhaustion (fatigue) and then burnout can happen to anybody. Being autistic can make fatigue and burnout more likely, due to the pressures of social situations and sensory overload. If your child or the person you care for is experiencing fatigue or burnout, helping them to manage their energy levels is essential, as this guide explains. 

There are various things that can cause autistic fatigue. Autistic adults suggest several causes, including: 

·        sensory overload 

·        dealing with social situations 

·        masking or camouflaging their autistic traits

·        suppressing stimming 

·        a sense of not meeting other people’s/society’s expectations of them.

Changes in your routines or day-to-day life, such as a change of school or job, can increase anxiety and can be additional causes for autistic fatigue and burnout.


What can I do if the person I care for is experiencing autistic fatigue and burnout?

Use energy accounting

Energy accounting is a system used to set manageable limits on your energy levels so you do not deplete yourself to the point of burnout. 

Help your child or the person you care for to set a limit on how much energy they have in a day or week and estimate how much certain activities drain them. Also work out how much certain activities energise them. 

You can then try to plan and balance their activities and energy over a day or week to try and manage stress limits. Make sure you build in time for relaxation and recovery. 


Time off and rest/relaxation

Whether you use energy accounting or not, time off from work or school and other high-stress activities is key to managing stress levels. Ensuring time for activities/interests that re-energise and promote relaxation is key. This could be connecting with family and friends or enjoying hobbies or interests. 


Time without having to mask

Autistic people often feel the need to hide or mask their autistic traits in public, for example by suppressing the urge to stim. It can be important to factor times into your child’s day for things like stimming, somewhere they feel comfortable and able to do so.



Lethargy with autism in this blog is a biologically treatable condition.

Taking time off to rest is not a cure for lethargy, it is just a coping strategy.

Why just cope, when you can live to your full potential?

The bunny managed to figure this out. (fit alkaline batteries)


You would think that hyperactivity would be more often a problem than lethargy in those with autism, but that is another story.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Sulfarlem / Anethole trithione (AOL) for Autism secondary to Mitochondrial Dysfunction (AMD)? Not to mention Metastasis

Sulfarlem has been used to treat dry mouths for half a century
By -, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Sulfarlem is a drug containing a chemical called Anethole trithione. Anethole is an organic compound used as a flavouring, it contributes a large component of the odour and flavour of anise and fennel.

Anise seed, or aniseed, contains a large amount of Anethole. The popular Greek drink Ouzo turns cloudy when diluted with water because of the Anethole. For the French it is called Pastis.   

Ouzo has been used to treat dry Greek mouths for seven centuries, particularly after a good meal.

For Anethole without the alcohol, a good source would include aniseed or fennel.


Today's post was prompted by a comment made before Christmas by our reader Claudia; she highlighted some recent French research that repurposes a drug developed by Solvay half a century ago.  The drug is Sulfarlem / Anethole trithione and it is used to treat people with a dry mouth, mainly in French speaking countries (including Canada) and in China, particularly Taiwan.

Sulfarlem appears to have secondary effects that include inhibiting oxidative stress in mitochondria which might benefit a long list of diseases, though they do not mention autism secondary to mitochondrial disease.

The other effect is a reduction in metastasis in people with cancer. This effect was written about in 2002 in the mass media.

Here, we demonstrate that OP2113 (5-(4-Methoxyphenyl)-3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione, CAS 532-11-6), synthesized and used as a drug since 1696, does not act as an unspecific antioxidant molecule (i.e., as a radical scavenger) but unexpectedly decreases mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS/H2O2) production by acting as a specific inhibitor of ROS production at the IQ site of complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. Studies performed on isolated rat heart mitochondria also showed that OP2113 does not affect oxidative phosphorylation driven by complex I or complex II substrates. We assessed the effect of OP2113 on an infarct model of ex vivo rat heart in which mitochondrial ROS production is highly involved and showed that OP2113 protects heart tissue as well as the recovery of heart contractile activity. 

Conclusion / Significance This work represents the first demonstration of a drug authorized for use in humans that can prevent mitochondria from producing ROS/H2O2. OP2113 therefore appears to be a member of the new class of mitochondrial ROS blockers (S1QELs) and could protect mitochondrial function in numerous diseases in which ROS-induced mitochondrial dysfunction occurs. These applications include but are not limited to aging, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, cardiac atrial fibrillation, and ischemia-reperfusion injury.

Here is the associated patent:-


The present invention relates to an inhibitor of production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) for treating or for use in the treatment of free oxygen-radicals related diseases. In one embodiment, said inhibitor is anethole trithione (AOL). In one embodiment, said inhibitor inhibits mitochondrial production of ROS. In a preferred embodiment, said inhibitor inhibits mitochondrial production of ROS at site IQ of complex I of mitochondria

In one embodiment, said free oxygen-radicals related diseases are selected from the group comprising: age-related macular degeneration, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, ischemic and reperfusion injury, pulmonary arterial hypertension, scleroderma, atherosclerosis, heart failure, myocardial infarction, arthritis, pulmonary toxicity, cardiopulmonary diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancer, metastasis, cardiac toxicity of anthracyclines, heart failure regardless of origin, ischemia, heart attack, stroke, thrombosis and embolism, asthma, allergic/inflammatory conditions, bronchial asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Huntington's disease, cognitive disorders, Progeria, progeroid syndromes, epileptic dementia, presenile dementia, post traumatic dementia, senile dementia, vascular dementia, HIV-1-associated dementia, post-stroke dementia, Down's syndrome, motor neuron disease, amyloidosis, amyloid associated with type 11 diabetes, Creutzfelt-Jakob disease, necrotic cell death, Gerstmann-Straussler syndrome, kuru and animal scrapie, amyloid associated with longterm hemodialysis, senile cardiac amyloid and Familial Amyloidotic Polyneuropathy, cerebropathy, neurospanchnic disorders, memory loss, aluminum intoxication, reducing the level of iron in the cells of living subjects, reducing free transition metal ion levels in mammals, patients having toxic amounts of metal in the body or in certain body compartments, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cataract, diabetes, cancer, liver diseases, skin ageing, transplantation, ototoxic secondary effects of aminoglycosides, neoplasms and toxicity of anti-neoplastic or immunosuppressive agents and chemicals, innate immune responses, and, Friedreich's Ataxia.

In one embodiment, said inhibitor is for preventing or for use in the prevention of metastasis.

From way back in 2002: -

Dry-Mouth Drug Joins Cancer Fight

Stephen Lam, director of the lung cancer prevention program at the British Columbia Cancer Research Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that one of Solvay's drugs, marketed as Sialor or Sulfarlem, also significantly reduces the spread of lung-cancer tumors.

Lam's study completed the second phase of trials necessary for the FDA's consideration. Over six months, 101 smokers and former smokers took the dry-mouth drug. It reduced the progression of their lung cancer tumors by an average of 22 percent.
To participate in the study, the smokers had to have smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.
Those who took a placebo had 53 percent more new lesions or lesions that got worse than those who took the drug.
The billion-dollar question is, who will pay for more clinical trials? Lam's study was paid for with grants from the National Cancer Institute, and the money has run out. The final stage of clinical trials can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The French have recently followed up :-

Mitochondria ROS blocker OP2-113 downregulates the insulin receptor substrate-2 (IRS-2) and inhibits lung tumor growth

They go further in their patent and propose Sulfarlem as a blocker of metastasis.

A recent Chinese paper sets out the mechanism of action.

CXCR4 and PTEN are involved in the anti-metastatic regulation of anethole in DU145 prostate cancer cells

Taken together, anethole demonstrated to act as the CXCR4 antagonist and as the PTEN activator which resulted to PI3K/AKT-mediated inhibition of the metastatic prostate cancer progressions.

Regular readers will know that PTEN is both a cancer gene and an autism gene.

PTEN is best known as a tumor suppressor affecting RAS-dependent cancer, like much prostate cancer. Activating PTEN is good for slowing cancer growth. As I mentioned in a recent comment to Roger, many substances are known to activate PTEN; a good example being I3C (indole-3-carbindol) which is found in those cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc) that many people choose not to eat.

Activating PTEN should also help some types of autism.

A recent Japanese study has a different take on the anti-metastatic mode of action.

Anethole is known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activities and to be a main constituent of fennel, anise, and camphor. In the present study, we evaluated anti-metastatic and apoptotic effects of anethole on highly-metastatic HT-1080 human fibrosarcoma tumor cells. Despite weak cytotoxicity against HT-1080 cells, anethole inhibited the adhesion to Matrigel and invasion of HT-1080 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Anethole was also able to down-regulate the expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and -9 and up-regulate the gene expression of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1. The similar inhibitory effect of anethole on MMP-2 and -9 activities was confirmed by zymography assay. Furthermore, anethole significantly decreased mRNA expression of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA), but not uPA receptor (uPAR). In addition, anethole suppressed the phosphorylation of AKT, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38 and nuclear transcription factor kappa B (NF-kB) in HT-1080 cells. Taken together, our findings indicate that anethole is a potent anti-metastatic drug that functions through inhibiting MMP-2/9 and AKT/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/NF-kB signal transducers.


There is quite a lot in this blog about cancer, due to the overlapping signalling pathways with autism, so follows a little digression about metastasis.

Metastasis is a pathogenic agent's spread from an initial/primary site to a different/secondary site within the host's body.

Often it is the metastasis that ultimately kills people; indeed this just happened to the mother of one of Monty's friends with autism.

Metastasis involves a complex series of steps in which cancer cells leave the original tumor site and migrate to other parts of the body via the bloodstream, via the lymphatic system, or by direct extension.

Source: Mikael Häggström 

If a cheap substance could reduce metastasis that would be a big deal.  Cancer is currently the second most common cause of death.  If you can take cheap/safe chemoprotective agents to reduce cancer’s occurrence and a cheap substance to reduce its spread/metastasis you would be pretty smart.

Cheap Cancer Drugs

Numerous cheap drugs have known anti-cancer properties (Metformin, Aspirin, Statins, plus many more) but absolutely no serious interest is shown to apply any of them.  Instead, some hugely expensive drugs have been developed that often extend life by a matter of months.

Sulfarlem certainly is cheap, costing 3 euros (USD 3.3) a pack in France, where it seems to be sold OTC.

It looks like the world of cancer research is as dysfunctional as the world of autism research, when it comes to translating existing knowledge into beneficial therapies.  Nobody wants a cheap cancer drug and I think nobody wants a cheap autism drug.  

Most people still believe autism cannot be treated and some even think it should not be treated. 


Sulfarlem has been around for 50 years and so there is plenty of safety data regarding its use.

It does look like a significant number of people with autism have a problem with Complex 1 in their mitochondria.  This subject has been covered extensively in this blog in regard to regressive autism and what Dr Kelley, from Johns Hopkins, termed autism secondary to mitochondrial disease (AMD).  Unfortunately for us, he has retired.

Dr Kelley’s mito-cocktail of antioxidants is used by many, but even he makes clear that it is far from perfect and it is not so cheap. 

Sulfarlem looks like an interesting potential add-on, or even a potential replacement.

The fact that Sulfarlem also activates PTEN means that an entirely different group with autism might see a benefit.

Who might carry out a trial of Sulfarlem in autism?  I think the one likely group are those irrepressible autism researchers in Iran, who have trialed so many off-label drugs.  Since Sulfarlem is already licensed in Canada, one of those more enlightened researchers in Toronto might like to investigate.

If you live in France you can skip your early morning expresso and go down to the pharmacy with your three euros and then make your own trial.

Sulfarlem, or just plain anethole, seems a cheap/safe way to potentially reduce metastasis once cancer has been identified. Probably not worth waiting another 20 years for any possible further clinical trials.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

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

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

Time to boost Homer's mitochondria?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DMF for Friedreich's ataxia

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

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

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

High Dose DMF to treat some cancer

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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