Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Jan 2014

Cytokine suppress

It Is Not Just Folklore: The Aqueous Extract of Mung Bean Coat Is Protective against Sepsis.

Mung bean (Vigna Radiata) has been traditionally used in China both as nutritional food and herbal medicine against a number of inflammatory conditions since the 1050s. A nucleosomal protein, HMGB1, has recently been established as a late mediator of lethal systemic inflammation with a relatively wider therapeutic window for pharmacological interventions. Here we explored the HMGB1-inhibiting capacity and therapeutic potential of mung bean coat (MBC) extract in vitro and in vivo. We found that MBC extract dose-dependently attenuated LPS-induced release of HMGB1 and several chemokines in macrophage cultures. Oral administration of MBC extract significantly increased animal survival rates from 29.4% (in saline group, N = 17 mice) to 70% (in experimental MBC extract group, N = 17 mice, P < 0.05). In vitro, MBC extract stimulated HMGB1 protein aggregation and facilitated both the formation of microtubule-associatedprotein-1-light-chain-3-(LC3-)containing cytoplasmic vesicles, and the production of LC3-II in macrophage cultures. Consequently, MBC extract treatment led to reduction of cellular HMGB1 levels in macrophage cultures, which was impaired by coaddition of two autophagy inhibitors (bafilomycin A1 and 3-methyladenine). Conclusion. MBC extract is protective against lethal sepsis possibly by stimulating autophagic HMGB1 degradation.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:498467

A major ingredient of green tea rescues mice from lethal sepsis partly by inhibiting HMGB1.

BACKGROUND: The pathogenesis of sepsis is mediated in part by bacterial endotoxin, which stimulates macrophages/monocytes to sequentially release early (e.g., TNF, IL-1, and IFN-gamma) and late (e.g., HMGB1) pro-inflammatory cytokines. Our recent discovery of HMGB1 as a late mediator of lethal sepsis has prompted investigation for development of new experimental therapeutics. We previously reported that green tea brewed from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis is effective in inhibiting endotoxin-induced HMGB1 release. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Here we demonstrate that its major component, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), but not catechin or ethyl gallate, dose-dependently abrogated HMGB1 release in macrophage/monocyte cultures, even when given 2-6 hours post LPS stimulation. Intraperitoneal administration of EGCG protected mice against lethal endotoxemia, and rescued mice from lethal sepsis even when the first dose was given 24 hours after cecal ligation and puncture. The therapeutic effects were partly attributable to: 1) attenuation of systemic accumulation of proinflammatory mediator (e.g., HMGB1) and surrogate marker (e.g., IL-6 and KC) of lethal sepsis; and 2) suppression of HMGB1-mediated inflammatory responses by preventing clustering of exogenous HMGB1 on macrophage cell surface. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these data suggest a novel mechanism by which the major green tea component, EGCG, protects against lethal endotoxemia and sepsis.

PLoS One. 2007 Nov 7;2(11):e1153

HMGB-1 as a target for inflammation controlling.

In the present study, we evaluated recent patents that describe products or methods able to down-regulate the pro-inflammatory action of HMGB-1, also called as amphoterin. High Mobility Group Box-1 (HMGB-1) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases. HMGB-1 has been proposed to be a crucial mediator in the pathogenesis of many diseases including sepsis, arthritis, cancer, autoimmunity diseases and diabetes. It has been suggested that HMGB-1 itself can signal through RAGEs (receptor for advanced glycation end products) and through the Toll-Like Receptors TLR2 and TLR4. Activation of these receptors results ultimately in the activation of Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NFkappaB), inducing the up-regulation of leukocyte adhesion molecules, production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and angiogenic factors in both hematopoietic and endothelial cells, thereby promoting inflammation. There are several patents proposed for controlling the production, secretion and neutralization of HMGB-1 and consequently the inflammatory process. We have divided the patents in six groups based on mechanism of action. The group 1 is associated with inhibition of HMGB-1 using anti-HMGB-1 antibodies; group 2: inhibition of HMGB-1 releases from the nucleus into the extracellular space; group 3: HMGB-A box as a competitive antagonist of HMGB-1; group 4: blockage of RAGE-HMGB-1 signaling using RAGE antagonists; group 5: blockage of TLR-HMGB-1 signaling using anti-TLR2 antibodies and group 6: other molecules that modulate HMGB-1 activity using e.g. human soluble thrombomodulin. The mechanism of HMGB-1 action, its role and efficiency of each group of patents proposed for controlling inflammation are discussed.

Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov. 2012 Sep;6(3):201-9

HMGB1: endogenous danger signaling.

While foreign pathogens and their products have long been known to activate the innate immune system, the recent recognition of a group of endogenous molecules that serve a similar function has provided a framework for understanding the overlap between the inflammatory responses activated by pathogens and injury. These endogenous molecules, termed alarmins, are normal cell constituents that can be released into the extracellular milieu during states of cellular stress or damage and subsequently activate the immune system. One nuclear protein, High mobility group box-1 (HMGB1), has received particular attention as fulfilling the functions of an alarmin by being involved in both infectious and non-infectious inflammatory conditions. Once released, HMGB1 signals through various receptors to activate immune cells involved in the immune process. Although initial studies demonstrated HMGB1 as a late mediator of sepsis, recent findings indicate HMGB1 to have an important role in models of non-infectious inflammation, such as autoimmunity, cancer, trauma, and ischemia reperfusion injury. Furthermore, in contrast to its pro-inflammatory functions, there is evidence that HMGB1 also has restorative effects leading to tissue repair and regeneration. The complex functions of HMGB1 as an archetypical alarmin are outlined here to review our current understanding of a molecule that holds the potential for treatment in many important human conditions.

Mol Med. 2008 Jul-Aug;14(7-8):476-84

Human macrophage and dendritic cell-specific silencing of high-mobility group protein B1 ameliorates sepsis in a humanized mouse model.

Hypersecretion of cytokines by innate immune cells is thought to initiate multiple organ failure in murine models of sepsis. Whether human cytokine storm also plays a similar role is not clear. Here, we show that human hematopoietic cells are required to induce sepsis-induced mortality following cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) in the severely immunodeficient nonobese diabetic (NOD)/SCID/IL2Rg(-/-) mice, and siRNA treatment to inhibit HMGB1 release by human macrophages and dendritic cells dramatically reduces sepsis-induced mortality. Following CLP, compared with immunocompetent WT mice, NOD/SCID/IL2Rg(-/-) mice did not show high levels of serum HMGB1 or murine proinflammatory cytokines and were relatively resistant to sepsis-induced mortality. In contrast, NOD/SCID/IL2Rg(-/-) mice transplanted with human hematopoietic stem cells [humanized bone marrow liver thymic mice (BLT) mice] showed high serum levels of HMGB1, as well as multiple human but not murine proinflammatory cytokines, and died uniformly, suggesting human cytokines are sufficient to induce organ failure in this model. Moreover, targeted delivery of HMGB1 siRNA to human macrophages and dendritic cells using a short acetylcholine receptor (AchR)-binding peptide [rabies virus glycoprotein (RVG)-9R] effectively suppressed secretion of HMGB1, reduced the human cytokine storm, human lymphocyte apoptosis, and rescued humanized mice from CLP-induced mortality. siRNA treatment was also effective when started after the appearance of sepsis symptoms. These results show that CLP in humanized mice provides a model to study human sepsis, HMGB1 siRNA might provide a treatment strategy for human sepsis, and RVG-9R provides a tool to deliver siRNA to human macrophages and dendritic cells that could potentially be used to suppress a variety of human inflammatory diseases.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Dec 18;109(51):21052-7

HMGB1 is associated with atherosclerotic plaque composition and burden in patients with stable coronary artery disease.

OBJECTIVES: The role of inflammation in atherosclerosis is widely appreciated. High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), an injury-associated molecular pattern molecule acting as a mediator of inflammation, has recently been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. In this study, we sought to investigate the association of plasma HMGB1 with coronary plaque composition in patients with suspected or known coronary artery disease (CAD). DESIGN: HMGB1, high sensitive troponin T (hsTnT) and high sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP) were determined in 152 consecutive patients with suspected or known stable CAD who underwent clinically indicated 256-slice coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA). Using CCTA, we assessed 1) coronary calcification, 2) non-calcified plaque burden and 3) the presence of vascular remodeling in areas of non-calcified plaques. RESULTS: Using univariate analysis, hsCRP, hsTnT and HMGB1 as well as age, and atherogenic risk factors were associated with non-calcified plaque burden (r = 0.21, p = 0.009; r = 0.48, p<0.001 and r = 0.34, p<0.001, respectively). By multivariate analysis, hsTnT and HMGB1 remained independent predictors of the non-calcified plaque burden (r = 0.48, p<0.01 and r = 0.34, p<0.001, respectively), whereas a non-significant trend was noticed for hs-CRP (r = 0.21, p = 0.07). By combining hsTnT and HMGB1, a high positive predictive value for the presence of non-calcified and remodeled plaque (96% and 77%, respectively) was noted in patients within the upper tertiles for both biomarkers, which surpassed the positive predictive value of each marker separately.CONCLUSIONS: In addition to hs-TnT, a well-established cardiovascular risk marker, HMGB1 is independently associated with non-calcified plaque burden in patients with stable CAD, while the predictive value of hs-CRP is lower. Complementary value was observed for hs-TnT and HMGB1 for the prediction of complex coronary plaque.

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52081

HDAC4/5-HMGB1 signalling mediated by NADPH oxidase activity contributes to cerebral ischaemia/reperfusion injury.

Histone deacetylases (HDACs)-mediated epigenetic mechanisms play critical roles in the homeostasis of histone acetylation and gene transcription. HDAC inhibitors have displayed neuroprotective properties in animal models for various neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and ischaemic stroke. However, some studies have also reported that HDAC enzymes exert protective effects in several pathological conditions including ischaemic stress. The mixed results indicate the specific roles of each HDAC protein in different diseased states. However, the subtypes of HDACs associated with ischaemic stroke keep unclear. Therefore, in this study, we used an in vivo middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model and in vitro cell cultures by the model of oxygen glucose deprivation to investigate the expression patterns of HDACs and explore the roles of individual HDACs in ischaemic stroke. Our results showed that inhibition of NADPH oxidase activity ameliorated cerebral ischaemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury and among Zn(2+) -dependent HDACs, HDAC4 and HDAC5 were significantly decreased both in vivo and in vitro, which can be reversed by NADPH oxidase inhibitor apocynin. We further found that both HDAC4 and HDAC5 increased cell viability through inhibition of HMGB1, a central mediator of tissue damage following acute injury, expression and release in PC12 cells. Our results for the first time provide evidence that NADPH oxidase-mediated HDAC4 and HDAC5 expression contributes to cerebral ischaemia injury via HMGB1 signalling pathway, suggesting that it is important to elucidate the role of individual HDACs within the brain, and the development of HDAC inhibitors with improved specificity is required to develop effective therapeutic strategies to treat stroke.

J Cell Mol Med. 2013 Apr;17(4):531-42

HMGB1: the missing link between diabetes mellitus and heart failure.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a major independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but also leads to cardiomyopathy. However, the etiology of the cardiac disease is unknown. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify molecular mechanisms underlying diabetic heart disease. High glucose treatment of isolated cardiac fibroblasts, macrophages and cardiomyocytes led to a sustained induction of HMGB1 on the RNA and protein level followed by increased NF-kB binding activity with consecutively sustained TNF-a and IL-6 expression. Short interference (si) RNA knock-down for HMGB1 and RAGE in vitro confirmed the importance of this axis in diabetes-driven chronic inflammation. In a murine model of post-myocardial infarction remodeling in type 1 diabetes, cardiac HMGB1 expression was significantly elevated both on RNA and protein level paralleled by increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines up to 10 weeks. HMGB1-specific blockage via box A treatment significantly reduced post-myocardial infarction remodeling and markers of tissue damage in vivo. The protective effects of box A indicated an involvement of the mitogen-activated protein-kinases jun N-terminal kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, as well as the transcription factor nuclear factor-kappaB. Interestingly, remodeling and tissue damage were not affected by administration of box A in RAGE (-/-) mice. In conclusion, HMGB1 plays a major role in DM and post-I/R remodeling by binding to RAGE, resulting in activation of sustained pro-inflammatory pathways and enhanced myocardial injury. Therefore, blockage of HMGB1 might represent a therapeutic strategy to reduce post-ischemic remodeling in DM.

Basic Res Cardiol. 2010 Nov;105(6):805-20

HMGB1 in development and diseases of the central nervous system.

High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is widely expressed in cells of vertebrates in two forms: a nuclear “architectural” factor and a secreted inflammatory factor. During early brain development, HMGB1 displays a complex temporal and spatial distribution pattern in the central nervous system. It facilitates neurite outgrowth and cell migration critical for processes, such as forebrain development. During adulthood, HMGB1 serves to induce neuroinflammation after injury, such as lesions in the spinal cord and brain. Receptor for advanced glycation end products and Toll-like receptors signal transduction pathways mediate HMGB1-induced neuroinflammation and necrosis. Increased levels of endogenous HMGB1 have also been detected in neurodegenerative diseases. However, in Huntington’s disease, HMGB1 has been reported to protect neurons through activation of apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease and 5’-flap endonuclease-1, whereas in other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, HMGB1 serves as a risk factor for memory impairment, chronic neurodegeneration, and progression of neuroinflammation. Thus, HMGB1 plays important and double-edged roles during neural development and neurodegeneration. The HMGB1-mediated pathological mechanisms have remained largely elusive. Knowledge of these mechanisms is likely to lead to therapeutic targets for neurological diseases.

Mol Neurobiol. 2012 Jun;45(3):499-506

The role of HMGB1 in the pathogenesis of rheumatic disease.

HMGB1 is a ubiquitous nuclear protein that can be released by any damaged cell or by activated macrophages and certain other cell types. HMGB1 has been successfully therapeutically targeted in multiple preclinical models of infectious and sterile diseases including arthritis. Extracellular HMGB1 mediates inflammation via induction of cytokine and metalloproteinase production and recruitment and activation of dendritic cells needed for priming of naïve T helper type 1 lymphocytes. HMGB1 can bind endogenous molecules such as IL-1beta and nucleosomes and exogenous agents like endotoxin and microbial DNA. These complexes synergistically increase the capacity for activation of adaptive and innate immunity. HMGB1-nucleosome complexes induce autoantibody formation against double-stranded DNA and nucleosomes, which does not occur if HMGB1 is absent. These antibodies are central in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus and patients with active disease have both increased HMGB1 and HMGB1-nucleosome levels in circulation. Furthermore, HMGB1 is strongly bipolar charged, enabling cell membrane passage and intracellular transport of complexed molecules including DNA. Rheumatoid arthritis patients have excessive extracellular HMGB1 levels in joints and serum. The HMGB1 release is caused by cytokines, activated complement and hypoxia. The most prominent HMGB1 protein and mRNA expression arthritis is present in pannus regions, where synovial tissue invades articular cartilage and bone. HMGB1 promotes the activity of proteolytic enzymes, and osteoclasts need HMGB1 for functional maturation. Neutralizing HMGB1 therapy in preclinical models of arthritis confers striking protection against structural damage. This review summarizes selected aspects of HMGB1 biology relevant for induction and propagation of some autoimmune conditions.

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Jan-Feb; 1799(1-2):141-8

Common pathophysiologic mechanisms in migraine and epilepsy.

Migraine and epilepsy are comorbid episodic disorders that have common pathophysiologic mechanisms. Migraine attacks, like epileptic seizures, may be triggered by excessive neocortical cellular excitability; in migraine, however, the hyperexcitability is believed to transition to cortical spreading depression rather than to the hypersynchronous activity that characterizes seizures. Some forms of epilepsy and migraine are known to be channelopathies. Mutations in the same genes can cause either migraine or epilepsy or, in some cases, both. Given the likely commonalities in the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms, it is not surprising that some antiepileptic drugs, including valproate, topiramate, and gabapentin, are effective antimigraine agents. Ionotropic glutamate receptors play roles in both migraine and epilepsy, with NMDA receptors that are critical to cortical spreading depression of particular importance in migraine. Greater understanding of the shared mechanisms of epilepsy and migraine can provide a basis for the development of improved treatment approaches that may be applicable to both conditions.

Arch Neurol. 2008 Jun;65(6):709-14

Gastrodin decreases immunoreactivities of gamma-aminobutyric acid shunt enzymes in the hippocampus of seizure-sensitive gerbils.

Gastrodin is one of the natural compound isolated from Gastrodia elata and has known anticonvulsant effects, although the exact pharmacological principles of this natural compound and its effects on other aspects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) metabolism in vivo have not been explored. Therefore, in the present study, the effects of gastrodin on GABA metabolism in the gerbil hippocampus were examined, in an effort to identify the antiepileptic characteristics of this substance. Gastrodin reduced the seizure score in the treated group, although the immunoreactivities of GABA synthetic enzymes and GABA transporters were unaltered in gastrodin-treated animals. Interestingly, in the gastrodin-treated group, GABA transaminase (GABA-T) immunoreactivity in the hippocampus, particularly in neurons, was significantly decreased. In the gastrodin-treated group, both succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase (SSADH) and succinic semialdehyde reductase (SSAR) immunoreactivities in the hippocampus was also decreased significantly, which stood in contrast to the nontreated group, in which strong SSADH and SSAR immunoreactivities were detected. From the neuroanatomical viewpoint, these findings suggest that gastrodin may cause the elevation of GABA concentration by inhibiting the GABA shunt.

J Neurosci Res. 2003 Feb 15;71(4):534-43

Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium.

Magnesium, the second most abundant intracellular cation, is essential in many intracellular processes and appears to play an important role in migraine pathogenesis. Routine blood tests do not reflect true body magnesium stores since <2% is in the measurable, extracellular space, 67% is in the bone and 31% is located intracellularly. Lack of magnesium may promote cortical spreading depression, hyperaggregation of platelets, affect serotonin receptor function, and influence synthesis and release of a variety of neurotransmitters. Migraine sufferers may develop magnesium deficiency due to genetic inability to absorb magnesium, inherited renal magnesium wasting, excretion of excessive amounts of magnesium due to stress, low nutritional intake, and several other reasons. There is strong evidence that magnesium deficiency is much more prevalent in migraine sufferers than in healthy controls. Double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have produced mixed results, most likely because both magnesium deficient and non-deficient patients were included in these trials. This is akin to giving cyanocobalamine in a blinded fashion to a group of people with peripheral neuropathy without regard to their cyanocobalamine levels. Both oral and intravenous magnesium are widely available, extremely safe, very inexpensive and for patients who are magnesium deficient can be highly effective. Considering these features of magnesium, the fact that magnesium deficiency may be present in up to half of migraine patients, and that routine blood tests are not indicative of magnesium status, empiric treatment with at least oral magnesium is warranted in all migraine sufferers.

J Neural Transm . 2012 May;119(5):575-9

Higher glutamate to glutamine ratios in occipital regions in women with migraine during the interictal state.

BACKGROUND: Glutamate (Glu) and glutamine (Gln) are strongly compartmentalized (in neurons for Glu and in astrocytes for Gln). The visual cortex is the brain region with a higher neuron/astrocyte ratio (the highest neuronal density and the relatively lowest density of astrocytes). Elevations in extracellular Glu or potassium above certain thresholds are likely candidates to be the final common steps in the multiple distinct processes that can lead to cortical spreading depression. Astrocytes play a key role in this phenomenon, by acting as a sink for extracellular Glu and potassium, as well as generally acting as a buffer for the ionic and neurochemical changes that initiate and propagate cortical spreading depression. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to quantify Glu and Gln to generate Glu/Gln ratios in women with migraine during the interictal state compared with healthy control women. METHODS: Twenty-seven patients with migraine (8 with aura and 19 without aura) and 19 matched healthy controls were included in the study. We performed proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the anterior paracingulate cortex and occipital cortex (OC). Spectral analysis was performed by LCModel, allowing a separation of Glu and Gln using a 3T machine. RESULTS: The main result was a significantly higher Glu/Gln ratio in the OC of migraine patients compared with healthy control subjects (4.87 for migraineurs [standard deviation (SD) = 2.74] and 3.42 for controls [SD = 1.52], P = .042). We also observed higher Glu levels (6.98 for migraineurs [SD = 0.85] and 6.22 for controls [SD = 0.97], P = .007) and Glu/creatine + phosphocreatine ratio (1.18 for migraineurs [SD = 0.18] and 1.00 for controls [SD = 0.16], P = .001) in anterior paracingulate cortex in migraine patients but saw no differences in Glu/Gln ratio (2.79 for migraineurs [SD = 1.11] and 2.63 for controls [SD = 1.61], P = .68). CONCLUSION: These findings are consistent with glutamatergic differences in migraine patients during the interictal period compared with healthy controls. We hypothesize that an increased Glu/Gln ratio could arise from neuronal-glial coupling of glutamatergic metabolism differences or an increased neuron/astrocyte ratio in the OC.

Headache. 2013 Feb;53(2):365-75

Significant differences in gene expression of GABA receptors in peripheral blood leukocytes of migraineurs.

Migraine is a debilitating neurovascular disorder, with a substantial genetic component. The exact cause of a migraine attack is unknown; however cortical hyperexcitability is thought to play a role. As Gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, malfunctioning of this system may be a cause of the hyperexcitability. To date, there has been limited research examining the gene expression or genetics of GABA receptors in relation to migraine. The aim of our study was to determine if GABA receptors play a role in migraine by investigating their gene expression using profile in migraine affected individuals and non-affected controls by Q-PCR. Gene expression of GABA(A) receptor subunit isoforms (GABRA3, GABRB3, GABRQ) and GABA(B) receptor 2 (GABBR2) was quantified in mRNA obtained from peripheral blood leukocytes from 28 migraine subjects and 22 healthy control subjects. Analysis of results showed that two of the tested genes, GABRA3 and GABBR2, were significantly down regulated in migraineurs (P=0.018; P=0.017), compared to controls. Results from the other tested genes did not show significant gene expression variation. The results indicate that there may be specific GABA receptor gene expression variation in migraine, particularly involving the GABRA3 and GABBR2 genes. This study also identifies GABRA3 and GABBR2 as potential biomarkers to select migraineurs that may be more responsive to GABA agonists with future investigations in this area warranted.

Gene. 2011 Dec 15;490(1-2):32-6

A study of the neuroprotective effect of the phenolic glucoside gastrodin during cerebral ischemia in vivo and in vitro.

The phenolic glucoside gastrodin (Gas) is a main component extracted from the rhizome of Gastrodia elata, a Chinese herbal medicine, which has long been used for treating dizziness, epilepsy, stroke and dementia. In this study, we investigated the neuroprotective effects of Gas on cerebral ischemic injury in rats caused by transient middle cerebral arterial occlusion (MCAO), oxygen/glucose deprivation (OGD) and glutamate-induced injury in

cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Additionally, the effects of Gas on the extracellular glutamate level and changes in intracellular Ca (2+) and the generation of nitric oxide (NO) were examined in cultured hippocampal neurons subjected to OGD in vitro. The results showed that the high dose of Gas (100 mg/kg) markedly decreased the infarct volume and edema volume, and improved the neurological functions after MCAO. Gas treatment (15 microg/mL, 30 microg/mL) also significantly inhibited OGD- and glutamate-induced neuronal cell death and reduced the extracellular glutamate level following OGD. Moreover, Gas treatment significantly inhibited the OGD-induced Ca (2+) and NO increases. In conclusion, the present study indicates that Gas has a neuroprotective action.

Planta Med. 2006 Dec;72(15):1359-65

Protective effects of gastrodin on hypoxia-induced toxicity in primary cultures of rat cortical neurons.

The phenolic glucoside gastrodin is the main component extracted from the rhizome of Gastrodia elata (Orchidaceae), a Chinese herbal medicine, which has long been used for treating dizziness, epilepsy, stroke and dementia. The present study aims to investigate the effect of gastrodin on hypoxia-induced neurotoxicity in cultured rat cortical neurons. Neuron survival and extracellular glutamate level were measured after an insult by hypoxia. Glutamate concentrations were determined by an HPLC-ECD system. The results demonstrated that neurons were significantly damaged by hypoxia for 24 h. When pretreated with gastrodin (100, 200 microg/mL) in hypoxia, neuron survival was significantly increased compared with no gastrodin treatment. Moreover, the enhancement of extracellular glutamate level stimulated by hypoxia was inhibited by pretreatment with gastrodin (100 microg/mL). Further studies demonstrated that gastrodin prevented glutamate- and NMDA-induced neurotoxicity. In addition, gastrodin also inhibited the extracellular glutamate level induced by NMDA insult. These findings suggest that gastrodin has a neuroprotective action against hypoxia in the cultured cortical neuron, and the mechanism may involve a decreasing of the extracellular glutamate level.

Planta Med. 2007 Jun;73(7):650-4

Prophylaxis of migraine with oral magnesium: results from a prospective, multi-center, placebo-controlled and double-blind randomized study.

In order to evaluate the prophylactic effect of oral magnesium, 81 patients aged 18-65 years with migraine according to the International Headache Society (IHS) criteria (mean attack frequency 3.6 per month) were examined. After a prospective baseline period of 4 weeks they received oral 600 mg (24 mmol) magnesium (trimagnesium dicitrate) daily for 12 weeks or placebo. In weeks 9-12 the attack frequency was reduced by 41.6% in the magnesium group and by 15.8% in the placebo group compared to the baseline (p < 0.05). The number of days with migraine and the drug consumption for symptomatic treatment per patient also decreased significantly in the magnesium group. Duration and intensity of the attacks and the drug consumption per attack also tended to decrease compared to placebo but failed to be significant. Adverse events were diarrhea (18.6%) and gastric irritation (4.7%). High-dose oral magnesium appears to be effective in migraine prophylaxis.

Cephalalgia. 1996 Jun;16(4):257-63

Intravenous magnesium sulfate rapidly alleviates headaches of various types.

BACKGROUND: Circumstan-tial evidence points to the possible role of magnesium deficiency in the pathogenesis of headaches and has raised questions about the clinical utility of magnesium as a therapeutic regimen in some headaches. METHODS: We evaluated the efficacy of intravenous infusion of 1 gram of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) for the treatment of patients with headaches and attempted to correlate clinical responses to the basal serum ionized magnesium (IMg2+) level. We also determined if patients with certain headache types exhibit low serum IMg2+ as opposed to total serum magnesium. Using a case-control comparison at an outpatient headache clinic, a consecutive sample of patients presenting with a moderate or severe headache of any type were included in the study. Of the 40 patients in the study (mean age 38.2 +/- 9.4 years; range 14 to 55; 11 men [39.2 +/- 7.3 years] and 29 women [37.8 +/- 10.2 years]), 16 patients had migraines without aura, 9 patients had cluster headaches, 4 patients had chronic tension-type headaches, and 11 had chronic migrainous headaches. Total serum magnesium was measured with atomic absorption spectroscopy and a Kodak Ektachem DT-60. Sensitive ion selective electrodes were utilized to measure serum IMg2+ and ionized calcium (ICa2+); ICa2+/IMg2+ ratios were calculated. RESULTS: Complete elimination of pain was observed in 80% of the patients within 15 minutes of infusion of MgSO4. No recurrence or worsening of pain was observed within 24 hours in 56% of the patients. Patients treated with MgSO4 observed complete elimination of migraine-associated symptoms such as photophobia and phonophobia as well as nausea. Correlation was noted between immediate and 24-hour responses with the serum IMg2+ levels. Immediate pain relief was observed in 32 (80%) of 40 patients (P < 0.001). In 18. of the 32 patients, pain relief persisted for at least 24 hours (P < 0.005). Of these 18 patients, 16 (89%) had a low serum IMg2+ level. Total magnesium levels in contrast in all subjects were within normal range (0.70-0.99 mmol/L). No side effects were observed, except for a brief flushed feeling. Of the 8 patients with no relief, only 37.5% had a low IMg2+ level. Patients demonstrating no return of headache or associated symptoms within 24 hours of intravenous MgSO4 exhibited the lowest initial basal levels of IMg2+. Non-responders exhibited significantly elevated total magnesium levels compared to responders. Although most subcategories of headache types investigated (ie, migraine, cluster, chronic migrainous) exhibited low serum IMg2+ during headache and prior to intravenous MgSO4, the patients with cluster headaches exhibited the lowest basal levels of IMg2+ (P < 0.01). All headache subjects except for the chronic tension group exhibited rather high serum ICa2+/IMg2+ ratios (P < 0.01, compared to controls). CONCLUSIONS: Intravenous infusion of 1 gram of MgSO4 results in rapid relief of headache pain in patients with low serum IMg2+ levels. Measurement of serum IMg2+ levels may have a practical application in many types of headache patients. Low serum and brain tissue ionized magnesium levels may precipitate headache symptoms in susceptible patients.

Headache. 1996 Mar;36(3):154-60

Effect of silybin on high-fat-induced fatty liver in rats.

Silybin, a natural antioxidant, has been traditionally used against a variety of liver ailments. To investigate its effect and the underlying mechanisms of action on non-alcoholic fatty liver in rats, we used 60 4-6-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats to establish fatty liver models by feeding a high-fat diet for 6 weeks. Hepatic enzyme, serum lipid levels, oxidative production, mitochondrial membrane fluidity, homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance index (HOMA-IR), gene and protein expression of adiponectin, and resistin were evaluated by biochemical, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Western blot analysis. Compared with the model group, silybin treatment (26.25 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1), started at the beginning of the protocol) significantly protected against high-fat-induced fatty liver by stabilizing mitochondrial membrane fluidity, reducing serum content of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) from 450 to 304 U/L, decreasing hepatic malondialdehyde (MDA) from 1.24 to 0.93 nmol/mg protein, but increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (GSH) levels from 8.03 to 9.31 U/mg protein and from 3.65 to 4.52 nmol/mg protein, respectively. Moreover, silybin enhanced the gene and protein expression of adiponectin from 215.95 to 552.40, but inhibited that of resistin from 0.118 to 0.018. Compared to rosiglitazone (0.5 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1), started at the beginning of the protocol), silybin was effective in stabilizing mitochondrial membrane fluidity, reducing SOD as well as ALT, and regulating gene and protein expression of adiponectin (P < 0.05). These results suggest that mitochondrial membrane stabilization, oxidative stress inhibition, as well as improved insulin resistance, may be the essential mechanisms for the hepatoprotective effect of silybin on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats. Silybin was more effective than rosiglitazone in terms of maintaining mitochondrial membrane fluidity and reducing oxidative stress.

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2011 Jul;44(7):652-9

Hepatoprotective herbal drug, silymarin from experimental pharmacology to clinical medicine.

Silymarin, a flavonolignan from ‘milk thistle’ (Silybum marianum) plant is used almost exclusively for hepatoprotection and amounts to 180 million US dollars business in Germany alone. In this review we discuss about its safety, efficacy and future uses in liver diseases. The use of silymarin may replace the polyherbal formulations and will avoid the major problems of standardization, quality control and contamination with heavy metals or bacterial toxins. Silymarin consists of four flavonolignan isomers namely—silybin, isosilybin, silydianin and silychristin. Among them, silybin being the most active and commonly used. Silymarin is orally absorbed and is excreted mainly through bile as sulphates and conjugates. Silymarin offers good protection in various toxic models of experimental liver diseases in laboratory animals. It acts by antioxidative, anti-lipid peroxidative, antifibrotic, anti-inflammatory, membrane stabilizing, immunomodulatory and liver regenerating mechanisms. Silymarin has clinical applications in alcoholic liver diseases, liver cirrhosis, Amanita mushroom poisoning, viral hepatitis, toxic and drug induced liver diseases and in diabetic patients. Though silymarin does not have antiviral properties against hepatitis virus, it promotes protein synthesis, helps in regenerating liver tissue, controls inflammation, enhances glucuronidation and protects against glutathione depletion. Silymarin may prove to be a useful drug for hepatoprotection in hepatobiliary diseases and in hepatotoxicity due to drugs. The non-traditional use of silymarin may make a breakthrough as a new approach to protect other organs in addition to liver. As it is having a good safety profile, better patient tolerability and an effective drug at an affordable price, in near future new derivatives or new combinations of this drug may prove to be useful.

Indian J Med Res. 2006 Nov;124(5):491-504

Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future.

Silybum marianum or milk thistle (MT) is the most well-researched plant in the treatment of liver disease. The active complex of MT is a lipophilic extract from the seeds of the plant and is composed of three isomer flavonolignans (silybin, silydianin, and silychristin) collectively known as silymarin. Silybin is a component with the greatest degree of biological activity and makes up 50% to 70% of silymarin. Silymarin is found in the entire plant but it is concentrated in the fruit and seeds. Silymarin acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical production and lipid peroxidation, has antifibrotic activity and may act as a toxin blockade agent by inhibiting binding of toxins to the hepatocyte cell membrane receptors. In animals, silymarin reduces liver injury caused by acetaminophen, carbon tetrachloride, radiation, iron overload, phenylhydrazine, alcohol, cold ischaemia and Amanita phalloides. Silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis and toxin-induced liver diseases.

Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1423-32

An assessment of pharmacokinetics and antioxidant activity of free silymarin flavonolignans in healthy volunteers: A dose escalation study.

MMilk thistle (Silybum marianum) extracts, one of the most widely used dietary supplements, contain a mixture of six major flavonolignans (silybin A, silybin B, isosilybin B, isosilybin A, silychristin, and silydianin) and other components. However, the pharmacokinetics of the free individual flavonolignans has only partially been investigated in humans. Further, antioxidant effects of the extract, which may underlie the basis of many therapeutic effects, have not been thoroughly assessed. The present study was to evaluate the pharmacokinetics of the six major flavonolignans in healthy volunteers receiving single doses either one(175 mg), two(350 mg), or three(525 mg) of milk thistle capsule(s) on three separate study visits. Additionally, the steady state pharmacokinetic parameters were determined after the subjects were administered one capsule thrice daily for 28 consecutive days. Our results demonstrated that all six flavonolignans were rapidly absorbed and eliminated. In order of abundance, the exposure to free flavonolignans was greatest for silybin A followed by silybin B, isosilybin B, isosilybin A, silychristin, and silydianin. The systemic exposure to these compounds appeared linear and dose-proportional. The disposition of flavonolignans was stereoselective, as evidenced by the apparent clearance of silybin B, which was significantly greater than silybin A, whereas the apparent clearance of isosilybin B was significantly lower than isosilybin A. The concentrations of urinary 8-epi-prostaglandin F2a, a commonly used biomarker of oxidative status in humans, were considerably decreased in study subjects after a 28-day exposure to the extract (1.3±0.9 versus 0.8±0.9 ng/mg creatinine), but failed to reach statistical significance (P=0.076).

Drug Metab Dispos. 2013 Jul 8

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) for the therapy of liver disease.

Silymarin, derived from the milk thistle plant, Silybum marianum, has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver and biliary tract. As interest in alternative therapy has emerged in the United States, gastroenterologists have encountered increasing numbers of patients taking silymarin with little understanding of its purported properties. Silymarin and its active constituent, silybin, have been reported to work as antioxidants scavenging free radicals and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Studies also suggest that they protect against genomic injury, increase hepatocyte protein synthesis, decrease the activity of tumor promoters, stabilize mast cells, chelate iron, and slow calcium metabolism. In this article we review silymarin’s history, pharmacology, and properties, and the clinical trials pertaining to patients with acute and chronic liver disease.

Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Feb;93(2):139-43

Silymarin suppresses hepatic stellate cell activation in a dietary rat model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: analysis of isolated hepatic stellate cells.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is characterized by hepatocellular injury and initial fibrosis severity has been suggested as an important prognostic factor of NASH. Silymarin was reported to improve carbon tetrachloride-induced liver fibrosis and reduce the activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSC). We investigated whether silymarin could suppress the activation of HSCs in NASH induced by methionine- and choline-deficient (MCD) diet fed to insulin-resistant rats. NASH was induced by feeding MCD diet to obese diabetic Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats. Non-diabetic Long-Evans Tokushima Otsuka (LETO) rats were fed with standard chow and served as the control. OLETF rats were fed on either standard laboratory chow, or MCD diet or MCD diet mixed with silymarin. Histological analysis of the liver showed improved non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) activity score in silymarin-fed MCD-induced NASH. Silymarin reduced the activation of HSCs, evaluated by counting a-smooth muscle actin (SMA)-positive cells and measuring a-SMA mRNA expression in the liver lysates as well as in HSCs isolated from the experimental animals. Although silymarin decreased a(1)-procollagen mRNA expression in isolated HSCs, the anti-fibrogenic effect of silymarin was not prominent so as to show significant difference under histological analysis. Silymarin increased the nuclear translocation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and decreased tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a mRNA expression in the liver. Our study suggested that the possible protective effect of silymarin in diet induced NASH by suppressing the activation of HSCs and disturbing the role of the inflammatory cytokine TNF-a.

Int J Mol Med. 2012 Sep;30(3):473-9

Effects of metformin, pioglitazone, and silymarin treatment on non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease: a randomized controlled pilot study.

BACKGROUND: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common reasons of enzyme increase in liver. In About 10 percent of patients with NAFLD, the disease progresses toward Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) and about one third of them may progress toward cirrhosis, liver dysfunction, and even hepatocellular carcinoma. OBJECTIVES: According to high prevalence of NAFLD and the fact that there is no consensus on treatment of this disease, the aim of this study was to assess the effects of metformin, pioglitazone, and silymarin on treatment of NAFLD. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Sixty six patients with NAFLD who were presented in the Endocrinology and Metabolism clinic of Boo’ali Hospital, Qazvin, Iran, were assigned randomly into three groups (n = 22). First group was treated by pioglitazone 15 mg/d, second group by metformin 500 mg/d, and third group by silymarin 140 mg/d. All patients underwent clinical and biochemical evaluations including weight, fasting blood sugar (FBS), lipid profiles, body mass index (BMI), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and serum insulin levels in pre- and post-intervention after eight-week follow up. RESULTS: Before the treatment there was no significant difference between three groups with respect to average age, BMI and gender, FBS, lipid profile, AST, ALT, serum insulin level, and Homeostasis Model Assessment (HOMA) index for insulin resistance. After the intervention, a significant reduction was observed in average amount of FBS, lipid profile, ALT, AST, serum insulin level and HOMA index in three groups (P < 0.01). The most reduction in average FBS, TG, serum insulin level, and HOMA index was observed in pioglitazone group, the most reduction in average amount of cholesterol was seen in metformin group, and the most decrease in average amount of AST and ALT occurred in silymarin group. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that all drugs are beneficial in improving biochemical indices in patients with NAFLD. Changes in AST and ALT in silymarin group were demonstrated more than that in other groups and the average difference between changes was significant between silymarin and metformin groups.

Hepat Mon . 2012 Aug;12(8):e6099

A randomized controlled trial to assess the safety and efficacy of silymarin on symptoms, signs and biomarkers of acute hepatitis.

PURPOSE: Milk thistle or its purified extract, silymarin (Silybum marianum), is widely used in treating acute or chronic hepatitis. Although silymarin is hepatoprotective in animal experiments and some human hepatotoxic exposures, its efficacy in ameliorating the symptoms of acute clinical hepatitis remains inconclusive. In this study, our purpose was to determine whether silymarin improves symptoms, signs and laboratory test results in patients with acute clinical hepatitis, regardless of etiology. METHODS: This is a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in which participants, treating physicians and data management staff were blinded to treatment group. The study was conducted at two fever hospitals in Tanta and Banha, Egypt where patients with symptoms compatible with acute clinical hepatitis and serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels >2.5 times the upper limit of normal were enrolled. The intervention consisted of three times daily ingestion of either a standard recommended dose of 140 mg of silymarin (Legalon, MADAUS GmbH, Cologne, Germany), or a vitamin placebo for four weeks with an additional four-week follow-up. The primary outcomes were symptoms and signs of acute hepatitis and results of liver function tests on days 2, 4 and 7 and weeks 2, 4, and 8. Side-effects and adverse events were ascertained by self-report. RESULTS: From July 2003 through October 2005, 105 eligible patients were enrolled after providing informed consent. No adverse events were noted and both silymarin and placebo were well tolerated. Patients randomized to the silymarin group had quicker resolution of symptoms related to biliary retention: dark urine (p=0.013), jaundice (p=0.02) and scleral icterus (p=0.043). There was a reduction in indirect bilirubin among those assigned to silymarin (p=0.012), but other variables including direct bilirubin, ALT and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were not significantly reduced. CONCLUSIONS: Patients receiving silymarin had earlier improvement in subjective and clinical markers of biliary excretion. Despite a modest sample size and multiple etiologies for acute clinical hepatitis, our results suggest that standard recommended doses of silymarin are safe and may be potentially effective in improving symptoms of acute clinical hepatitis despite lack of a detectable effect on biomarkers of the underlying hepatocellular inflammatory process.

Phytomedicine . 2009 May;16(5):391-400

Randomized controlled trial of silymarin treatment in patients with cirrhosis of the liver.

Silymarin, the active principle of the milk thistle Silybum marianum, protects experimental animals against various hepatotoxic substances. To determine the effect of silymarin on the outcome of patients with cirrhosis, a double blind, prospective, randomized study was performed in 170 patients with cirrhosis. 87 patients (alcoholic 46, non-alcoholic 41; 61 male, 26 female; Child A, 47; B, 37; C, 3; mean age 57) received 140 mg silymarin three times daily. 83 patients (alcoholic 45, non-alcoholic 38; 62 male, 21 female; Child A, 42; B, 32; C, 9: mean age 58) received a placebo. Non-compliant patients and patients who failed to come to a control were considered as ‘drop outs’ and were withdrawn from the study. All patients received the same treatment until the last patient entered had finished 2-years of treatment. The mean observation period was 41 months. There were 10 drop outs in the placebo group and 14 in the treatment group. In the placebo group, 37 (+2 drop outs) patients had died, and in 31 of these, death was related to liver disease. In the treatment group, 24 (+4 drop outs) had died, and in 18 of these, death was related to liver disease. The 4-year survival rate was 58 +/- 9% (S.E.) in silymarin-treated patients and 39 +/- 9% in the placebo group (P = 0.036). Analysis of subgroups indicated that treatment was effective in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis (P = 0.01) and in patients initially rated ‘Child A’ (P = 0.03). No side effects of drug treatment were observed.

J Hepatol. 1989 Jul;9(1):105-13

Silibinin is a potent antiviral agent in patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to pegylated interferon/ribavirin therapy.

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Oral Silibinin (SIL) is widely used for treatment of hepatitis C, but its efficacy is unclear. Substantially higher doses can be administered intravenously (IV). METHODS: Pedigreed nonresponders to full-dose pegylated (Peg)-interferon/ribavirin (PegIFN/RBV) were studied. First, 16 patients received 10 mg/kg/day SIL IV (Legalon Sil; Madaus, Köln, Germany) for 7 days. In a subsequent dose-finding study, 20 patients received 5, 10, 15, or 20 mg/kg/day SIL for 14 days. In both protocols, PegIFN alpha-2a/RBV were started on day 8. Viral load was determined daily. RESULTS: Unexpectedly, in the first study, HCV-RNA declined on IV SIL by 1.32 +/- 0.55 log (mean +/- SD), P < .001 but increased again in spite of PegIFN/RBV after the infusion period. The viral load decrease was dose dependent (log drop after 7 days SIL: 0.55 +/- 0.5 [5 mg/kg, n = 3], 1.41 +/- 0.59 [10 mg/kg, n = 19], 2.11 +/- 1.34 [15 mg/kg, n = 5], and 3.02 +/- 1.01 [20 mg/kg, n = 9]; P < .001), decreased further after 7 days combined SIL/PegIFN/RBV (1.63 +/- 0.78 [5 mg/kg, n = 3], 4.16 +/- 1.28 [10 mg/kg, n = 3], 3.69 +/- 1.29 [15 mg/kg, n = 5], and 4.85 +/- 0.89 [20 mg/kg, n = 9]; P < .001), and became undetectable in 7 patients on 15 or 20 mg/kg SIL, at week 12. Beside mild gastrointestinal symptoms, IV SIL monotherapy was well tolerated. CONCLUSIONS: IV SIL is well tolerated and shows a substantial antiviral effect against HCV in nonresponders.

Gastroenterology. 2008 Nov;135(5):1561-7

Environmental risk factors for autism: do they help cause de novo genetic mutations that contribute to the disorder?

Recent research has discovered that a number of genetic risk factors for autism are de novo mutations. Advanced parental age at the time of conception is associated with increased risk for both autism and de novo mutations. We investigated the hypothesis that other environmental factors associated with increased risk for autism might also be mutagenic and contribute to autism by causing de novo mutations. A survey of the research literature identified 9 environmental factors for which increased pre-conceptual exposure appears to be associated with increased risk for autism. Five of these factors—mercury, cadmium, nickel, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride—are established mutagens. Another four—including residence in regions that are urbanized, located at higher latitudes, or experience high levels of precipitation—are associated with decreased sun exposure and increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays important roles in repairing DNA damage and protecting against oxidative stress—a key cause of DNA damage. Factors associated with vitamin D deficiency will thus contribute to higher mutation rates and impaired repair of DNA. We note how de novo mutations may also help explain why the concordance rate for autism is so markedly higher in monozygotic than dizygotic twins. De novo mutations may also explain in part why the prevalence of autism is so remarkably high, given the evidence for a strong role of genetic factors and the low fertility of individuals with autism—and resultant selection pressure against autism susceptibility genes. These several lines of evidence provide support for the hypothesis, and warrant new research approaches—which we suggest—to address limitations in existing studies. The hypothesis has implications for understanding possible etiologic roles of de novo mutations in autism, and it suggests possible approaches to primary prevention of the disorder, such as addressing widespread vitamin D deficiency and exposure to known mutagens.

Med Hypotheses. 2010 Jan;74(1):102-6.

Autism and vitamin D.

Any theory of autism’s etiology must take into account its strong genetic basis while explaining its striking epidemiology. The apparent increase in the prevalence of autism over the last 20 years corresponds with increasing medical advice to avoid the sun, advice that has probably lowered vitamin D levels and would theoretically greatly lower activated vitamin D (calcitriol) levels in developing brains. Animal data has repeatedly shown that severe vitamin D deficiency during gestation dysregulates dozens of proteins involved in brain development and leads to rat pups with increased brain size and enlarged ventricles, abnormalities similar to those found in autistic children. Children with the Williams Syndrome, who can have greatly elevated calcitriol levels in early infancy, usually have phenotypes that are the opposite of autism. Children with vitamin D deficient rickets have several autistic markers that apparently disappear with high-dose vitamin D treatment. Estrogen and testosterone have very different effects on calcitriol’s metabolism, differences that may explain the striking male/female sex ratios in autism. Calcitriol down-regulates production of inflammatory cytokines in the brain, cytokines that have been associated with autism. Consumption of vitamin D containing fish during pregnancy reduces autistic symptoms in offspring. Autism is more common in areas of impaired UVB penetration such as poleward latitudes, urban areas, areas with high air pollution, and areas of high precipitation. Autism is more common in dark-skinned persons and severe maternal vitamin D deficiency is exceptionally common the dark-skinned. Conclusion: simple Gaussian distributions of the enzyme that activates neural calcitriol combined with widespread gestational and/or early childhood vitamin D deficiency may explain both the genetics and epidemiology of autism. If so, much of the disease is iatrogenic, brought on by medical advice to avoid the sun. Several types of studies could easily test the theory.

Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(4):750-9

Vitamin D and autism: clinical review.

BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with multiple genetic and environmental risk factors. The interplay between genetic and environmental factors has become the subject of intensified research in the last several years. Vitamin D deficiency has recently been proposed as a possible environmental risk factor for ASD. OBJECTIVE: The aim of the current paper is to systematically review the research regarding the possible connection between ASD and vitamin D, and to provide a narrative review of the literature regarding the role of vitamin D in various biological processes in order to generate hypotheses for future research. RESULTS: Systematic data obtained by different research groups provide some, albeit very limited, support for the possible role of vitamin D deficiency in the pathogenesis of ASD. There are two main areas of involvement of vitamin D in the human body that could potentially have direct impact on the development of ASD: (1) the brain (its homeostasis, immune system and neurodevelopment) and (2) gene regulation. CONCLUSION: Vitamin D deficiency—either during pregnancy or early childhood—may be an environmental trigger for ASD in individuals genetically predisposed for the broad phenotype of autism. On the basis of the results of the present review, we argue for the recognition of this possibly important role of vitamin D in ASD, and for urgent research in the field.

Res Dev Disabil. 2012 Sep-Oct;33(5):1541-50

Primary vitamin D target genes allow a categorization of possible benefits of vitamin D3 supplementation.

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of developing a number of diseases. Here we investigated samples from 71 pre-diabetic individuals of the VitDmet study, a 5-month high dose vitamin D3 intervention trial during Finnish winter, for their changes in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D3) concentrations and the expression of primary vitamin D target genes in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and adipose tissue. A negative correlation between serum concentrations of parathyroid hormone and 25(OH)D3 suggested an overall normal physiological vitamin D response among the participants. The genes CD14 and thrombomodulin (THBD) are up-regulated primary vitamin D targets and showed to be suitable gene expression markers for vitamin D signaling in both primary tissues. However, in a ranking of the samples concerning their expected response to vitamin D only the top half showed a positive correlation between the changes of CD14 or THBD mRNA and serum 25(OH)D3 concentrations. Interestingly, this categorization allows unmasking a negative correlation between changes in serum concentrations of 25(OH)D3 and the inflammation marker interleukin 6. We propose the genes CD14 and THBD as transcriptomic biomarkers, from which the effects of a vitamin D3 supplementation can be evaluated. These biomarkers allow the classification of subjects into those, who might benefit from a vitamin D3 supplementation, and others who do not.

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 29;8(7):e71042

Vitamin D deficiency: universal risk factor for multifactorial diseases?

In the Western world, the majority of morbidity and mortality are caused by multifactorial diseases. Some risk factors are related to more than one type of disease. These so-called universal risk factors are highly relevant to the population, as reduction of universal risk factors may reduce the prevalence of several types of multifactorial disease simultaneously. Vitamin D deficiency is traditionally seen as an etiological factor in bone disorders such as rickets and osteomalacia. Recent studies also suggest a role for vitamin D deficiency in multifactorial disorders, including progressive renal function loss and cardiovascular disease; it is also a risk factor for frailty. The potentially pleiotropic effects of vitamin D analogues support the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency is a universal risk factor. Here we review molecular actions of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), to identify mechanisms and pathways for vitamin D deficiency as a universal risk factor. To identify genes directly regulated by the VDR, we searched for genes containing vitamin D response elements (VDREs). A further refinement was made by selecting only VDRE-containing genes with documented modulation by VDR analogues in vivo. Our search yielded a limited number of factors possibly related to pleiotropic effects of vitamin D, including growth factors, hormones, inflammatory factors and factors related to calcium homeostasis. Results from observational, intervention and mechanistic studies indicate that vitamin D is a universal risk factor involved in diverse multifactorial conditions. Further exploration of the multifaceted actions of vitamin D may pave the way for disease-overriding intervention strategies.

Curr Drug Targets. 2011 Jan;12(1):97-106

The neurobiology of lipid metabolism in autism spectrum disorders.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in communication and reciprocal social interaction, coupled with repetitive behavior, which typically manifests by 3 years of age. Multiple genes and early exposure to environmental factors are the etiological determinants of the disorder that contribute to variable expression of autism-related traits. Increasing evidence indicates that altered fatty acid metabolic pathways may affect proper function of the nervous system and contribute to autism spectrum disorders. This review provides an overview of the reported abnormalities associated with the synthesis of membrane fatty acids in individuals with autism as a result of insufficient dietary supplementation or genetic defects. Moreover, we discuss deficits associated with the release of arachidonic acid from the membrane phospholipids and its subsequent metabolism to bioactive prostaglandins via phospholipase A(2)-cyclooxygenase biosynthetic pathway in autism spectrum disorders. The existing evidence for the involvement of lipid neurobiology in the pathology of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism is compelling and opens up an interesting possibility for further investigation of this metabolic pathway.

Neurosignals. 2010;18(2):98-112

Prevalence of serum antibodies to caudate nucleus in autistic children.

Autism may involve autoimmunity to brain. We studied regional distribution of antibodies to rat caudate nucleus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, brain stem and hippocampus. The study included 30 normal and 68 autistic children. Antibodies were assayed by immunoblotting. Autistic children, but not normal children, had antibodies to caudate nucleus (49% positive sera), cerebral cortex (18% positive sera) and cerebellum (9% positive sera). Brain stem and hippocampus were negative. Antibodies to caudate nucleus were directed towards three proteins having 160, 115 and 49 kD molecular weights. Since a significant number of autistic children had antibodies to caudate nucleus, we propose that an autoimmune reaction to this brain region may cause neurological impairments in autistic children. Thus, the caudate nucleus might be involved in the neurobiology of autism.

Neurosci Lett. 2004 Jan 23;355(1-2):53-6

Increased serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 auto-antibodies in autistic children: relation to the disease severity.

BACKGROUND: Autoimm-unity to the central nervous system (CNS) may play a pathogenic role in a subgroup of patients with autism. This study aimed to investigate the frequency of serum anti-ganglioside M1 auto-antibodies, as indicators of the presence of autoimmunity to CNS, in a group of autistic children. We are the first to measure the relationship between these antibodies and the degree of the severity of autism. METHODS: Serum anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies were measured, by ELISA, in 54 autistic children, aged between 4 and 12 years, in comparison to 54 healthy-matched children. Autistic severity was assessed by using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). RESULTS: Autistic children had significantly higher serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies than healthy children (P < 0.001). The seropositivity of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies was found in 74% (40/54) of autistic children. Serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies were significantly higher in autistic children with severe autism (63%) than those with mild to moderate autism (37%), P = 0.001. Moreover, serum anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies had significant positive correlations with CARS (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies were increased in many autistic children. Also, their levels had significant positive correlations with the degree of the severity of autism. Thus, autism may be, in part, one of the pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. Further wide-scale studies are warranted to shed light on the possible etiopathogenic role of anti-ganglioside M1 auto-antibodies in autism. The role of immunotherapy in autistic patients who have increased serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies should also be studied.

J Neuroinflammation. 2011 Apr 25;8:39

Thimerosal neurotoxicity is associated with glutathione depletion: protection with glutathione precursors.

Thimerosol is an antiseptic containing 49.5% ethyl mercury that has been used for years as a preservative in many infant vaccines and in flu vaccines. Environmental methyl mercury has been shown to be highly neurotoxic, especially to the developing brain. Because mercury has a high affinity for thiol (sulfhydryl (-SH)) groups, the thiol-containing antioxidant, glutathione (GSH), provides the major intracellular defense against mercury-induced neurotoxicity. Cultured neuroblastoma cells were found to have lower levels of GSH and increased sensitivity to thimerosol toxicity compared to glioblastoma cells that have higher basal levels of intracellular GSH. Thimerosal-induced cytotoxicity was associated with depletion of intracellular GSH in both cell lines. Pretreatment with 100 microM glutathione ethyl ester or N-acetylcysteine (NAC), but not methionine, resulted in a significant increase in intracellular GSH in both cell types. Further, pretreatment of the cells with glutathione ethyl ester or NAC prevented cytotoxicity with exposure to 15 microM Thimerosal. Although Thimerosal has been recently removed from most children’s vaccines, it is still present in flu vaccines given to pregnant women, the elderly, and to children in developing countries. The potential protective effect of GSH or NAC against mercury toxicity warrants further research as possible adjunct therapy to individuals still receiving Thimerosal-containing vaccinations.

Neurotoxicology. 2005 Jan;26(1):1-8

Assessing vitamin D status.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To characterize methods evaluating and to summarize studies linking various serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations with health status. RECENT FINDINGS: Elucidation of the cell-biologic mechanism of vitamin D action, and numerous clinical trials and observational studies relating vitamin D status to health and disease. CONCLUSION: The distinction between deficiency and insufficiency is not useful or necessary. Serum 25(OH)D values below 120  nmol/l (48  ng/mL) are associated with preventable disease and are therefore indicative of deficiency. The upper limit of the normal range can be set at 225  nmol/l (90  ng/mL), although toxicity is rare below 500  nmol/l (200  ng/mL).

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011 Sep;14(5):440-4

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