Eat broccoli sprouts to pivot your internal environment’s signals

Two 2020 reviews covered some aspects of a broccoli sprouts primary action – NRF2 signaling pathway activation:

“Full understanding of the properties of drug candidates rely partly on the identification, validation, and use of biomarkers to optimize clinical applications. This review focuses on results from clinical trials with four agents known to target NRF2 signaling in preclinical studies, and evaluates the successes and limitations of biomarkers focused on:

  • Expression of NRF2 target genes [AKR1, GCL, GST, HMOX1, NQO1] and others [HDAC, HSP];
  • Inflammation [COX-2, CRP, IL-1β, IL-6, IP-10, MCP-1, MIG, NF-κB, TNF-α] and oxidative stress [8-OHdG, Cys/CySS, GSH/GSSG] biomarkers;
  • Carcinogen metabolism and adduct biomarkers in unavoidably exposed populations; and
  • Targeted and untargeted metabolomics [HDL, LDL, TG].

No biomarkers excel at defining pharmacodynamic actions in this setting.

SFN [sulforaphane] seems to affect multiple downstream pathways associated with anti-inflammatory actions. NRF2 signaling may be but one pivotal pathway.

SFN is generally considered to be the most potent natural product inducer of Nrf2 signaling. Studies in which these actions are diminished or abrogated in parallel experiments in Nrf2-disrupted mice provide the strongest lines of evidence for a key role of this transcription factor in its actions.

It is equally evident that other modes of action contribute to the molecular responses to SFN in animals and humans. Such polypharmacy may well contribute to the efficacy of the agent in disease prevention and mitigation, but obfuscates the value of specific pharmacodynamic biomarkers in the clinical development and evaluation of SFN.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/9/8/716/htm “Current Landscape of NRF2 Biomarkers in Clinical Trials”


Why do researchers still not use epigenetic clocks in sulforaphane clinical trials? Forty mentions of disease in this review, but no consideration of aging?

This was another example of how researchers – even when stuck in a paradigm they know doesn’t sufficiently explain their area (“No biomarkers excel”) – don’t investigate other associated research areas. Why not?

Here’s what Part 2 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane had to say to those stuck on biomarkers:

“While clinical biomarkers have obvious advantages (being indicative of organ dysfunction or disease), they are neither sufficiently mechanistic nor proximal to fundamental mechanisms of aging to serve as indicators of them. It has long been recognized that epigenetic changes are one of several primary hallmarks of aging.

DNA methylation epigenetic clocks capture aspects of biological age.”


The second review Epigenetic Regulation of NRF2/KEAP1 by Phytochemicals also completely whiffed on epigenetic clocks. One mention of aging in this review, but it wasn’t of:

  • Citation 104 from Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics; nor of
  • Citation 108 from the March 31, 2020, Aging journal; nor of
  • Citation 131 “Dietary epigenetics in cancer and aging.”

But epigenetic clock and aging associations were certainly in this review’s scope. For example, Citation 119 said:

“Nrf2 transcriptional activity declines with age, leading to age-related GSH loss among other losses associated with Nrf2-activated genes. This effect has implications, too, for decline in vascular function with age. Some of the age-related decline in function can be restored with Nrf2 activation by SFN.”

Why would people bother with phytochemicals (buzzword “compounds produced by plants”) unless they needed to either ameliorate symptoms or address causes?

“Epigenetic Regulation of NRF2/KEAP1 by Phytochemicals” doesn’t occur in just laboratory situations. It’s also part of daily life.

These reviewers were straight-forward with side effects for two of the first review’s four items:

“The best known NRF2 activator that has obtained clinical approval is dimethyl fumarate for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. However, it has several side effects, including allergic reactions and gastrointestinal disturbance. There are a few related agents in clinical trials, such as Bardoxolone and SFX-01, a synthetic derivative of sulforaphane, which also exhibit less than desirable outcomes.”


Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes?

This 2020 Swiss review subject was potential glutathione therapies for stress:

“We examine the available data supporting a role for GSH [reduced glutathione] levels and antioxidant function in the brain in relation to anxiety and stress-related psychopathologies. Several promising compounds could raise GSH levels in the brain by either increasing the availability of its precursors or the expression of GSH-regulating enzymes through activation of Nrf2.

GSH is the main cellular antioxidant found in all mammalian tissues. In the brain, GSH homeostasis has an additional level of complexity in that the expression of GSH and GSH-related enzymes are not evenly distributed across all cell types, requiring the coordination between neurons and astrocytes to neutralize oxidative insults.

Increased energy demand in situations of chronic stress leads to mitochondrial ROS overproduction, oxidative damage and exhaustion of GSH pools in the brain.

Several compounds can function as precursors of GSH by acting as cysteine (Cys) donors such as taurine or glutamate (Glu) donors such as glutamine (Gln). Other compounds stimulate the synthesis and recycling of GSH through the activation of the Nrf2 pathway including sulforaphane and melatonin. Compounds such as acetyl-L-carnitine can increase GSH levels.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763419311133 “Therapeutic potential of glutathione-enhancers in stress-related psychopathologies” (not freely available)


Many animal studies of “stress-related psychopathologies” were cited without noting applicability to humans. The reviewers instead had curious none-of-this-means-anything disclaimers like:

“Comparisons between studies investigating brain disorders of such different nature such as psychiatric disorders or neurodegenerative diseases, or even between brain or non-brain related disorders should be made with caution.”

Regardless, this paper had informative sections for my 27th week of eating broccoli sprouts every day.

1. I forgot to mention in Broccoli sprout synergies that I’ve taken 500 mg of trimethyl glycine (aka betaine) twice a day for over 15 years. Section 3.1.2 highlighted the amino acid glycine:

“Endogenous synthesis is insufficient to meet metabolic demands for most mammals (including humans) and additional glycine must be obtained from the diet. While most research has focused on increasing cysteine levels in the brain in order to drive GSH synthesis, glycine supplementation alone or in combination with cysteine-enhancing compounds are gaining attention for their ability to enhance GSH.”

2. The amino acid taurine dropped off my supplement regimen last year after taking 500 mg twice a day for years. It’s back on now after reading Section 3.1.3:

“Most studies that reported enhanced GSH in the brain following taurine treatment were performed under a chronic regimen and used in age-related disease models. Such positive effects of taurine on GSH levels may be explained by the fact that cysteine is the essential precursor to both metabolites, whereby taurine supplementation may drive the metabolism of cysteine towards GSH synthesis.

3. A study in Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts was cited for its potential:

“Thalamic GSH values significantly correlated with blood GSH levels, suggesting that peripheral GSH levels may be a marker of brain GSH content. Studies point to the capacity of sulforaphane to function both as a prophylactic against stress-induced behavioral changes and as a positive modulator in healthy animals.”


Sunrise minus 5 minutes

Unraveling oxytocin – is it nature’s medicine?

This 2020 review attempted to consolidate thousands of research papers on oxytocin:

“Chemical properties of oxytocin make this molecule difficult to work with and to measure. Effects of oxytocin are context-dependent, sexually dimorphic, and altered by experience. Its relationship to a related hormone, vasopressin, have created challenges for its use as a therapeutic drug.

Widely used medical interventions i.e.:

  • Exogenous oxytocin, such as Pitocin given to facilitate labor;
  • Opioid medications that block the oxytocin system; or
  • Cesarean sections that alter exposure to endogenous oxytocin

have lasting consequences for the offspring and/or mother.

Such exposures hold the potential to have epigenetic effects on the oxytocin systems, including changes in DNA methylation. These changes in turn would have lasting effects on the expression of receptors for oxytocin, leaving individuals differentially able to respond to oxytocin and also possibly to the effects of vasopressin.

Regions with especially high levels of OXTR [oxytocin receptor gene] are:

  • Various parts of the amygdala;
  • Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis;
  • Nucleus accumbens;
  • Brainstem source nuclei for the autonomic nervous system;
  • Systems that regulate the HPA axis; as well as
  • Brainstem tissues involved in pain and social attention.

Oxytocin protects neural cells against hypoxic-ischemic conditions by:

  • Preserving mitochondrial function;
  • Reducing oxidative stress; and
  • Decreasing a chromatin protein that is released during inflammation

which can activate microglia through the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE). RAGE acts as an oxytocin-binding protein facilitating the transport of oxytocin across the blood-brain barrier and through other tissues.

Directionality of this transport is 5–10 times higher from the blood to the brain, in comparison with brain to blood transport. Individual differences in RAGE could help to predict cellular access to oxytocin and might also facilitate access to oxytocin under conditions of stress or illness.

Oxytocin and vasopressin and their receptors are genetically variable, epigenetically regulated, and sensitive to stressors and diet across the lifespan. As one example, salt releases vasopressin and also oxytocin.

Nicotine is a potent regulator of vasopressin. Smoking, including prenatal exposure of a fetus, holds the potential to adjust this system with effects that likely differ between males and females and that may be transgenerational.

Relative concentrations of endogenous oxytocin and vasopressin in plasma were associated with:

These studies support the usefulness of measurements of both oxytocin and vasopressin but leave many empirical questions unresolved.

The vast majority of oxytocin in biosamples evades detection using conventional approaches to measurement.”

https://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/pharmrev/72/4/829.full.pdf “Is Oxytocin Nature’s Medicine?”


I appreciated efforts to extract worthwhile oxytocin research from countless poorly performed studies, research that wasted resources, and research that actually detracted from science. I was disappointed that at least one of the reviewers didn’t take this review as an opportunity to apologize for their previous wastes like three flimsy studies discussed in Using oxytocin receptor gene methylation to pursue an agenda.

Frank interpretations of one’s own study findings to acknowledge limitations is one way researchers can address items upfront that will be questioned anyway. Such analyses also indicate a goal to advance science.

Although these reviewers didn’t provide concrete answers to many questions, they highlighted promising research areas, such as:

  • Improved approaches to oxytocin measurements;
  • Prenatal epigenetic experience associations with oxytocin and OXTR; and
  • Possible transgenerational transmission of these prenatal epigenetic experiences.

Take responsibility for your one precious life – DHEA

This 2020 meta-analysis subject was DHEA:

“Twenty-four qualified trials were included in this meta-analysis. Statistically significant increases in serum IGF-1 levels were found only in participants who were:

  1. Women; or
  2. Supplementing 50 mg/d; or
  3. Undergoing intervention for > 12 weeks; or
  4. Without an underlying comorbidity; or
  5. Over the age of 60 years.

DHEA supplementation led to an overall increase of ~16 ng/ml in serum IGF-1 levels, as well as increases of ~23 [women] and ~20 ng/ml [age > 60]. Diseased and healthy subjects ages ranged from 20 to 72 years old.”

Discussion section explanations of the above:

  1. “Women are more susceptible to biochemical and clinical shifts caused by DHEA supplementation.
  2. The majority of investigations tested DHEA at a dose of 50 mg/d.
  3. The majority of studies were performed for > 12 weeks.
  4. Participants with no comorbidities were also older in many studies.
  5. Older patients have a natural decline in the production of IGF-1 and DHEA.

Additional rigorous RCTs are warranted to better define whether and to what extent changes in IGF-1 levels caused by DHEA supplementation are relevant for health benefits.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0531556520302977Impact of dehydroepianrosterone (DHEA) supplementation on serum levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1): A dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” (not freely available)


More on IGF-1 from The influence of zinc supplementation on IGF-1 levels in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis which was cited for “Previous studies have demonstrated that IGF-1 levels can be affected by several factors.”

“IGF-1 is a growth factor synthesized in the liver, and elicits a myriad of effects on health due to its participation in the GH-IGF-1 axis, where it:

  • Is involved in tissue homeostasis;
  • Has anti-apoptotic, mitogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and metabolic actions;
  • Contributes to skeletal muscle plasticity, maintenance of muscle strength and muscle mass;
  • Neural and cardiovascular protection;
  • Development of the skeleton;
  • Possesses insulin-like effects, and
  • Is a key factor in brain, eye and lung development during fetal development.

IGF-1 plays important roles in both growth and development, and its levels vary depending on age, with peaks generally observed in the postnatal period and at puberty. IGF-1 levels influence the release of GH [growth hormone] from the hypophysis [pituitary gland] via a negative feedback loop.

A rapid decrease in IGF-1 levels is registered during the third decade of life. Levels gradually decrease between the third and the eighth decade of life.”


The Group 3 “> 12 weeks” finding was reinforced by perspectives such as:

Group 4 “with no comorbidities” was narrowly defined. All of us have degrees of diseases in progress. Consider aging effects:

  • Aging as a normal disease “Aging and its diseases are inseparable, as these diseases are manifestations of aging. Instead of healthy aging, we could use the terms pre-disease aging or decelerated aging.”
  • Aging as an unintended consequence “Epigenetic ageing begins from very early moments after the embryonic stem cell stage and continues uninterrupted through the entire lifespan. Ageing is an unintended consequence of processes that are necessary for development of the organism and tissue homeostasis thereafter.”
  • Organismal aging and cellular senescence “If we assume that aging already starts before birth, it can be considered simply a developmental stage, required to complete the evolutionary program associated with species-intrinsic biological functions such as reproduction, survival, and selection.”
  • An environmental signaling paradigm of aging “The age-phenotype of a cell or organ depends on its environment and not its history. Organisms, organs, and their cells can be reset to different age-phenotypes depending on their environment.”

These perspectives are less important than what each of us choose to do about our own problems. Take responsibility for your one precious life.

Get serious about advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Ever heard about AGEs? Here are three papers that describe how AGEs affect humans.

First is a 2020 Italian review Common Protective Strategies in Neurodegenerative Disease: Focusing on Risk Factors to Target the Cellular Redox System:

“Neurodegenerative disease is an umbrella term for different conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain. Currently, neurodegenerative diseases are incurable, and the treatments available only control the symptoms or delay the progression of the disease.

Neurotoxicity can be induced by glycation reactions. Since glycation is a nonenzymatic process, proteins characterized by a slow turnover are those that more easily accumulate AGEs.

Methylglyoxal (MG) can occur as glycolysis by-product, but it is also present in foods (especially cooked and baked), beverages (mainly those fermented), and cigarette smoke, and it is considered the most potent precursor of AGE formation. More than 20 different AGEs have been identified in foods and in human tissues.

AGE accumulation, oxidative stress, and inflammation are related to AGE ability to bind specific receptors called RAGE. RAGE expression increases during aging, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, AD [Alzheimer’s], PD [Parkinson’s], and other neurodegenerative diseases.”


A 2015 study by some of the same authors Antiglycative activity of sulforaphane: a new avenue to counteract neurodegeneration? was cited for a treatment in addition to changing one’s diet to be AGE-less.

“When MG production is increased by high glucose or oxidative stress, glycated proteins accumulate in the brain and lead to glycative stress, playing a fundamental role in the establishment of different neurodegenerative disorders.

Our results indicated that SF [sulforaphane] counteracts ROS by two possible mechanisms of action: an increase of intracellular GSH [glutathione] levels and an enhancement of MG-detoxification through the up-regulation of the glyoxalase (GLO1) systems. GLO1 up-regulation is mediated by the transcription factor Nrf2. SF has been demonstrated to activate Nrf2.

Another mechanism by which SF exerts its neuroprotective activity against MG-induced glycative damage is the modulation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways involved in apoptotic cell death. All MAPK signaling pathways are activated in AD.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is associated with neuronal survival through its interactions with the tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) and p75 cellular receptors. BDNF expression levels are reduced in the brain of AD patients. SF pre-treatment, before MG addition, not only further increased BDNF levels, but also significantly induced TrkB protein levels reverting MG negative effect on this receptor.

SF totally reverts the reduction of glucose uptake caused by MG exposure. SF can be defined as a multitarget agent modulating different cellular functions leading to a pro-survival frame of particular importance in the prevention / counteraction of multifactorial neurodegenerative diseases.”


A 2020 review Non-enzymatic covalent modifications: a new link between metabolism and epigenetics investigated glycation:

“Non-enzymatic covalent modifications (NECMs) by chemically reactive metabolites have been reported to manipulate chromatin architecture and gene transcription. Unlike canonical post-translational modifications (PTMs), NECMs accumulate over time and are much more dependent on the cellular microenvironment.

A. Guanine residues in DNA and RNA can undergo methylglyoxal glycation, thereby inducing DNA and RNA damage. This DNA damage has few corresponding repair pathways.

B. Histones are primary glycation substrates because of their long half-lives and abundant lysine and arginine residues. Histone glycation was found to induce epigenetic dysregulation through three distinct mechanisms:

  1. Competition with essential enzymatic PTMs for sites (e.g., glycation adducts replace H3K4me3 and H3R8me2);
  2. Changing the charge states of histone tails and subsequently affecting the compaction state of the fiber; and
  3. Altering three-dimensional chromatin architecture by inducing both histone-histone and histone-DNA crosslinking.

Epigenetic impacts of histone glycation were shown to be dependent on sugar concentration and exposure time. Histone and DNA glycation may lead to long term epigenetic impacts on immune responses.

C. Glycation of multiple lysine residues of NRF2 inhibits its oncogenic function. Sugar molecules can influence epigenetic events through glycation of transcription factors and/or their associated regulatory proteins.”

The Transcription factor glycation section referenced a 2011 paper Regulation of the Keap1/Nrf2 system by chemopreventive sulforaphane: implications of posttranslational modifications:

“Nrf2 mRNA level is unaffected by treatment with sulforaphane, suggesting that cellular expression of Nrf2 protein is posttranscriptionally regulated. Posttranslational modifications of Keap1 and Nrf2 proteins seem to play an important role in the regulation of ARE‐dependent gene expression.”


“Neurodegenerative diseases are incurable” for people who don’t take responsibility for their one precious life.

Other curated AGEs papers include:

Aging as a normal disease

This 2018 review explained:

“Aging is the sum of all age-related diseases. Aging and its diseases are inseparable, as these diseases are manifestations of aging.

An aged appearance (e.g., grey hair, wrinkles, cushingoid body types and loss of muscles) are manifestations of pre-diseases. For example, an aged appearance may reflect hypercortisolism, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, skin pre-diseases.

Instead of healthy aging, we could use the terms pre-disease aging or decelerated aging. Treatments are generally more effective at pre-disease stages, associated with hyper-function, than at disease stages, associated with functional decline.

The decision to treat or not to treat is often determined by whether it is possible to treat.

A treatment that slows aging increases both healthspan (subclinical period) and lifespan, whereas a treatment that increases lifespan (e.g., coronary bypass, defibrillation) is not necessarily increase healthspan. The goal of both anti-aging therapies and preventive medicine is to extend healthspan (by preventing diseases), thus extending total lifespan.

The fact that aging is an obligatory part of the life of all organisms is not important. Aging can be treated as a pre-disease to prevent its progression to diseases. Aging does not need to be defined as a disease to be treated.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6286826/ “Disease or not, aging is easily treatable”




Take responsibility for your one precious life – Vitamin D3

Where to start among 6,489 studies and reviews published during the past five years, results from a PubMed search of “dihydroxyvitamin D3.” How about:

“Vitamin D plays a fundamental role in body calcium and phosphorous homeostasis, ensuring proper functioning of the skeletomuscular system. Pleiotropic activities include:

  • Anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties (predominantly downregulation of adaptive and upregulation of innate immunity);
  • An important role in reproduction, pregnancy, placental functions and fetal and child development;
  • Important in neurodevelopment as well as in the functioning of the adult central and peripheral nervous system;
  • Regulation of global metabolic and endocrine homeostasis and the functions of different endocrine organs, as well as in the functioning of the cardiovascular system;
  • Inhibits malignant transformation, tumor progression and has anti-cancer properties on a variety of tumors;
  • Formation of the epidermal barrier and hair cycling; and
  • Ameliorating effects on skin cancer and on proliferative and inflammatory cutaneous diseases.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6342654/ “The serum vitamin D metabolome: What we know and what is still to discover”


Or maybe:

“A study in 6,275 American children and adolescents aged 1–21 years showed that 61% were 25-(OH)D3 insufficient and 9% deficient. In adults, up to 40% are 25-(OH)D3 insufficient and 6% deficient.

Once adequate vitamin D values are reached, to further preserve adequate vitamin D levels in adults, the IOM [Institute of Medicine] recommends a daily dose of 600 IU per day, while the Endocrine Society recommends a dose of 600–2000 IU per day (according to the amount of sunlight the individual is exposed to). There seems to be no additional health benefit in doses higher than 4000 IU/day.

Vitamin D supplementation was protective against acute respiratory tract infections in a 25-(OH)D3 deficient population, especially in those receiving daily or weekly supplementation. However, in children this protective effect could not be reproduced.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7281985/ “Vitamin D’s Effect on Immune Function”


Not to forget Advanced glycation end products alter steroidogenic gene expression by granulosa cells: an effect partially reversible by vitamin D:

“This study suggests that there is a relationship between AGEs (advanced glycation end products) and their receptors (RAGE and sRAGE) with vitamin D. Understanding the interaction between AGEs and vitamin D in ovarian physiology could lead to a more targeted therapy for the treatment of ovarian dysfunction.”


Or similarities to broccoli sprouts’ main effect of Nrf2 signaling pathway activation:

“1,25(OH)2D3 plays a role in delaying aging by upregulating Nrf2, inhibiting oxidative stress and DNA damage, inactivating p53‐p21 and p16‐Rb signaling pathways, and inhibiting cell senescence and SASP.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6516172/ “1,25‐Dihydroxyvitamin D exerts an antiaging role by activation of Nrf2‐antioxidant signaling and inactivation of p16/p53‐senescence signaling”


Why do we insist on giving ourselves non-communicable diseases?

I recently paid $22.53 after tax for a nearly two-year supply:

A better use of one’s money would be..?

My June 2020 serum 25-OH Vitamin D measurement was 76 on a scale of 0 to 100 from taking a total of 3,400 IU daily. It’s fat-soluble, so I take it along with 1 gram flax oil each time.

Take responsibility for your own one precious life.

Autism biomarkers and sulforaphane

This 2020 US human study investigated autism improvements with sulforaphane:

“Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders that, in the United States, is currently estimated to affect 1 out of 59 children who are 8 years old. Despite decades of research and advances in our knowledge of the etiologies of ASD, treatments and biomarkers for ASD remain limited.

The primary diagnosis of ASD still relies on observational tools that are by nature subjective. There are currently no drugs approved to treat the core symptoms of ASD, nor are there any studies using SF [sulforaphane] in genetic mouse models of ASD.

In our previous placebo-controlled, double-blinded, randomized clinical trial, daily administration of SF for 4-18 weeks substantially improved the behavioral abnormalities of the majority of 26 young males with moderate to severe ASD without significant toxicity. The multi-functional phytochemical sulforaphane affects many of the biochemical abnormalities associated with ASD.

We investigated potential molecular markers from three ASD-associated physiological pathways that can be affected by sulforaphane:

  1. Redox metabolism / oxidative stress;
  2. Heat shock response; and
  3. Immune dysregulation / inflammation

in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy donors and patients with ASD.

Three representative Nrf2 [nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2]-dependent enzymes:

  1. AKR1C1 [aldo-keto reductase family 1 member C1];
  2. NQO1 [dehydrogenase quinone 1]; and
  3. HO-1 [heme oxygenase]

were significantly induced by 6 h of 2 μM or 5 μM SF ex vivo treatments in PBMCs from healthy donors. This time point was chosen based on our earlier observations of the kinetics of upregulation of Nrf2-dependent genes by SF, and was expected to capture the increased mRNA production of both very fast (HO-1) and relatively slow (NQO1) responders.

There was no concentration-dependence in the induction of any of the genes examined, with the higher (5 μM) concentration of SF even showing a slightly diminished effect for the induction of AKR1C1 and NQO1. Although this concentration is achievable in vivo, more typical peak concentrations of SF (and its metabolites) in human plasma are 1-2 μM.

SF ex vivo pre-treatment significantly decreased the LPS [lipopolysaccharides]-stimulated inflammatory gene (

  • COX-2,
  • TNF-α,
  • IL-6 and
  • IL-1β

) expression levels in PBMCs from healthy donors.

As a pilot study for a clinical trial of SF in children with ASD, we evaluated the same biomarkers from the ex vivo studies in 10 young males with ASD, 6-12 years of age, who received SF (in the form of a dietary supplement containing GR [glucoraphanin] and myrosinase), 2.2 μmol/kg/d for 14 days. Grouping by broad functionality (e.g. cytoprotective or pro-inflammatory), differences from baseline were highly significant.

asd gene expression

Individually none is sufficiently specific or sensitive, but when grouped by function as two panels, these biomarkers show promise for monitoring pharmacodynamic responses to sulforaphane in both healthy and autistic humans, and providing guidance for biomedical interventions. We conducted this study in the context of ASD, however our findings have broader implications and suggest that these biomarkers can be used in any study involving an intervention with SF.

Major signaling pathways for protective mechanisms against ASD by SF:

  • (a) Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway,
  • (b) NF-κB inflammatory pathway,
  • (c) Heat-shock responses.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7118069/ “Biomarker Exploration in Human Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells for Monitoring Sulforaphane Treatment Responses in Autism Spectrum Disorder”


Broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane aren’t panaceas. Their research is becoming more intensive and focused, though.

Reevaluate findings in another paradigm

It’s challenging for people to change their framework when their paychecks or mental state or reputations depend on it not changing.

I’ll use The hypothalamus and aging as an example. The review was alright for partial fact-finding up through 2018. The review’s facts were limited, however, to what fit into the reviewers’ paradigm.

The 2015 An environmental signaling paradigm of aging provided examples of findings that weren’t considered in the review. It also presented a framework that better incorporated what was known at the time.


Here’s how they viewed the same 2013 study, Hypothalamic programming of systemic ageing involving IKK-β, NF-κB and GnRH (not freely available).

Paradigm: “The hypothalamus is hypothesized to be a primary regulator of the process of aging of the entire body.”

Study assessment:

“The age-associated inflammation increase is mediated by IκB kinase-β (IKK-β) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) in the microglia and, subsequently, nearby neurons through the microglia–neuron interaction in the mediobasal hypothalamus. Apparently, blocking the hypothalamic or brain IKK-β or NF-κB activation causes delayed aging phenotype and improved lifespan.

Aging correlates with a decline in the hypothalamic GnRH expression in mice and, mechanistically, activated IKK-β and NF-κB significantly down regulates the GnRH transcription. Notably, GnRH therapy through either hypothalamic third ventricularor subcutaneous injection leads to a significant recovery of neurogenesis in the hypothalamus and hippocampus and a noticeable improvement of age-related phenotype in the skin thickness, bone density, and muscle strength when applied in middle-aged mice.”

Paradigm: Environmental signaling model of aging

Study assessment:

“A link between inflammation and aging is the finding that inflammatory and stress responses activate NF-κB in the hypothalamus and induce a signaling pathway that reduces production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) by neurons. GnRH decline contributes to aging-related changes such as bone fragility, muscle weakness, skin atrophy, and reduced neurogenesis. Consistent with this, GnRH treatment prevents aging-impaired neurogenesis and decelerates aging in mice.

Zhang et al. report that there is an age-associated activation of NF-κB and IKK-β. Loss of sirtuins may contribute both to inflammation and other aspects of aging, but this explanation, also given by Zhang et al. merely moves the question to why there a loss of sirtuins.

The case is particularly interesting when we realize that the aging phenotype can only be maintained by the continuous activation of NF-κB – a product of which is the production of TNF-α. Reciprocally when TNF-α is secreted into the inter-cellular milieu, it causes the activation of NF-κB. In their study, Zhang et al. noted that the activation of NF-κB began in the microglia (the immune system component cells found in the brain), which secreted TNF-α, resulting in a positive feedback loop that eventually encompassed the entire central hypothalamus.

The net result of this is a diminution in the production of gonadotropin-releasing factor which accounted for a shorter lifespan because provision of GnRH eliminated that effect, while either preventing NF-κB activation (or that of the IKK-β upstream activator) or by providing gonadotropin-releasing factor directly into the brain, or peripherally, extended lifespan by about 20%.

In spite of the claim of Zhang et al. that the hypothalamus is the regulator of lifespan in mice, their experiments show that only some aspects of lifespan are controlled by the hypothalamus, as preventing NF-κB activation in this organ did not stop aging and death. Similar increased NF-κB activation with age has been seen in other tissues as well and said to account for dysfunction in aging adrenal glands. It was demonstrated that increased aging occurred as a result of lack of gonadotropin-releasing hormone and that increased lifespan resulted from its provision during aging.

In this manner:

  1. The aging of hypothalamic microglia leads to
  2. The aging of the hypothalamus, which leads to
  3. Aging elsewhere in the body.

So here we have a multi-level interaction:

  1. The activation of NF-κB leads to
  2. Cellular aging, leading to
  3. A diminished production of GnRH, which then
  4. Acts (through the cells with a receptor for it, or indirectly as a result of changes to GnRH-receptor-possessing cells) to decrease lifespan.

So the age state of hypothalamic cells, at least with respect to NF-κB activation, is communicated to other cells via the reduced output of GnRH.”


Not using the same frameworks, are they?

In 2015, the researcher told the world what could be done to dramatically change the entire research area. He and other researchers did so recently as curated in Part 3 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane which addressed hypothalamus rejuvenation.

Part 3 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane

Part 1 focused on the study’s clinical biomarkers. Part 2 highlighted its epigenetic clocks. Now we’ll look at rejuvenation of cognitive function.

Charts for this study’s most relevant human aging applications – measured by the new human-rat relative biological age clock – were in supplementary data due to combining the study’s untreated tissue samples into clock training data. Reanalyses showed:

“Using the final version of the epigenetic clocks, we find that the treatment effects become even more significant especially for the hypothalamus.”

Human-rat relative clock percentages of rejuvenation were:

  • “Blood 70.6%
  • Liver 79.4%
  • Heart 61.6%
  • Hypothalamus 20.9%”

The Discussion section addressed hypothalamus rejuvenation:

“Why does plasma fraction treatment not reduce brain epigenetic age by the same magnitude as it does the other organs? We can only begin to address this question after having first understood what epigenetic aging entails.

As it stands, our knowledge in this area remains limited, but it is nevertheless clear that:

  1. Epigenetic aging is distinct from the process of cellular senescence and telomere attrition,
  2. Several types of tissue stem cells are epigenetically younger than non-stem cells of the same tissue,
  3. A considerable number of age-related methylation sites, including some clock CpGs, are proximal to genes whose proteins are involved in the process of development,
  4. Epigenetic clocks are associated with developmental timing, and
  5. Relate to an epigenomic maintenance system.

Collectively, these features indicate that epigenetic aging is intimately associated with the process of development and homeostatic maintenance of the body post-maturity.

  • While most organs of the body turnover during the lifetime of the host, albeit at different rates, the brain appears at best to do this at a very much slower rate.
  • While most tissues harbor stem cells that are necessary for replenishment and turnover, stem cells in adult brain have only been detected in a defined and very limited area of the subventricular zone, olfactory bulb (in rats), hippocampus and hypothalamic proliferative region.

As such, if plasma fraction treatment’s rejuvenating effect is:

  • Mediated through the process of development and
  • Involves tissue stem cells

then its effect on the epigenetic age of the brain would appear to be modest, which indeed it does.

It is to be noted however, that improving brain function does not depend on neurogenesis as much as it does on synapse formation and factors such as NMDA receptors which decline in density with age.

Assessment of plasma fraction treatment on cognitive function (learning and memory). Rats were subjected to Barnes maze test – nine consecutive days of test where the time (in seconds) required by the rats to find the escape hole (latency) was recorded and plotted. The error bars depict 2 standard errors.

Within a month of plasma fraction treatment, the rats exhibited significantly reduced latency to escape, i.e., they learned and remembered better. After the second month, the treated rats began with a slightly reduced latency period compared to the untreated old rats, and once again, they learned much faster than the latter.

By the third month, it was clear that treated rats remembered the maze much better than the untreated ones even from the first day of test as their latency period was significantly reduced and by the end of the test period their latency was similar to that of the young rats. This feature was sustained and repeated in the fourth month.”

Not sure why there’s a 62-day gap between “Second month” and “Third month.” Maybe it had something to do with “First month” starting 10 days after the first treatment and “Third month” similarly starting 13 days after the second treatment?


Regarding cognitive function, a 2019 Italian paper Polyphenol Health Effects on Cardiovascular and Neurodegenerative Disorders: A Review and Meta-Analysis analyzed pathetic results of experiments with polyphenols other than broccoli sprout compounds:

“Current treatments to halt cognitive decline are limited to counteract symptoms and have a positive impact on cognition and behavior only in a transient manner, without affecting the underlying pathology.

Although some polyphenols might improve specific markers of cardiovascular risk and cognitive status, many inconsistent data are present in literature. Therefore, definitive recommendations for the use of these compounds in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline are currently not applicable.”


Many of us know older people who lived well past the time of good cognitive function. We see how they’re helpless and dependent. We see how others take advantage of them as they decline past the end of their healthspan.

We can make personal plans for that day, sure. But let’s also put some urgency into applying this study’s new human-rat relative biological age clock, and make:

“A step change in aging research. Although conservation of aging mechanism could be equally deduced from the existence of multiple individual clocks for other mammals (mouse, dog), the single formula of the human-rat clock that is equally applicable to both species effectively demonstrates this fact.”

Part 2 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane

A rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane focused on the study’s clinical biomarkers and not its biological age measurements. This Part 2 curation of the study highlights its epigenetic clocks because:

“While clinical biomarkers have obvious advantages (being indicative of organ dysfunction or disease), they are neither sufficiently mechanistic nor proximal to fundamental mechanisms of aging to serve as indicators of them. It has long been recognized that epigenetic changes are one of several primary hallmarks of aging.

DNA methylation (DNAm) epigenetic clocks capture aspects of biological age. The discrepancy between DNAm age and chronological age (term as ‘epigenetic age acceleration’) is predictive of all-cause mortality. Pathologies and conditions that are associated with epigenetic age acceleration includes, but are not limited to, cognitive and physical functioning, centenarian status, Down syndrome, HIV infection, obesity, and early menopause.

The [new] human-rat clocks apply to both species. The two human-rat pan-tissue clocks are distinct, by way of measurement parameters. One estimates absolute age (in units of years), while the other estimates relative age, which is the ratio of chronological age to maximum lifespan; with values between 0 and 1. This ratio allows alignment and biologically meaningful comparison between species with very different lifespan (rat and human), which is not afforded by mere measurement of absolute age.

Relative age estimation was made using the formula: Relative age = Age / maxLifespan where the maximum lifespan for rats and humans were set to 3.8 years and 122.5 years, respectively.”

From Supplementary Table 3, old control and old treatment subjects were males 109 weeks old, 55% of their maximum lifespan (109 / 197.6). Young control subjects were males 30 weeks old, 15% of their maximum lifespan.

The money charts for this study’s human aging applications – measured by the new human-rat relative biological age clock – were buried in Supplementary Figure 12, bar plots M through P:

“Human-rat clock measure of relative age defined as age/maximum species lifespan. Each bar-plot reports the mean value and one standard error.”

From Supplementary Table 8, the percentages of rejuvenation for the above bar plots, calculated as “(100 * (1 – Old Treated / Old Control)” were:

  • “Blood 70.6%
  • Liver 79.4%
  • Heart 61.6%
  • Hypothalamus 20.9%”

Let’s return to clinical biomarkers for comparison purposes. The current study measured pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 blood plasma levels at every time point, but didn’t publish numbers. Bar plots and narrative were:

“Inflammation is an important response that helps protect the body, but excess inflammation especially in terms of duration of this response can have very detrimental effects instead. This occurs when inflammation fails to subside and persists indefinitely; a condition referred to as chronic inflammation, which for reasons not well-understood, increases with age and is associated with a multitude of conditions and pathologies.

The levels of two of the most reliable and common biomarkers of chronic inflammation, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), are found to be considerably higher in old rats, and these were very rapidly diminished, within days by plasma fraction treatment, to comparable levels with those of young rats. This was especially stark with IL-6.

In time, the levels of these inflammatory factors began to rise gradually, but they were once again very effectively reduced following the second administration of the plasma fraction on the 95th day.”

Let’s compare the above IL-6 graphic with IL-6 concentration improvements of our 2018 model clinical trial, Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects, calculated as (100 * (1 – Day _ mean / Day 0 mean):

Mean pg/ml | % improvement | Period | Broccoli sprout consumption

  • 4.594 | 0% | Day 0 | “One week before the beginning of the intervention period, subjects were asked to avoid the consumption of Brassica vegetables (broccoli, radish, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, mustards, among others) and their derived products.”
  • 1.748 | 62.0% | Day 0 to 70 | Subjects ate 30 g raw broccoli sprouts every day, and stopped eating them after Day 70.
  • 0.896 | 80.5% | Day 0 to 90 | “After the intervention period, a follow-up recovery period for all subjects continued for another 90 days with no ingestion of broccoli sprouts.”
  • 2.170 | 52.8% | Day 0 to 160 | Subjects had not eaten broccoli sprouts after Day 70.

Results between the studies were similar in that:

  1. IL-6 levels improved during early treatments through rat Day 8 and human Day 70, respectively.
  2. IL-6 levels continued decreasing shortly after treatments for 7 days (through rat Day 15) and 20 days (through human Day 90), respectively.
  3. IL-6 levels rose after rat Day 15 and human Day 90, respectively, but were still significantly below Day 0 values at rat Day 95 and human Day 160.

The current study measured Nrf2 but didn’t publish numbers. Bar plots and narrative were:

“The reduction of these inflammation markers is consistent with the profile of the nuclear factor erythroid 2-like 2 protein (Nrf2), which plays a major role in resolving inflammation, in part by inhibiting the expression of IL-6 and TNF-α. Nrf2 also induces the expression of antioxidants that neutralizes ROS [reactive oxygen species], which is also a significant feature in inflammation.”

A PubMed search on “nrf2 sulforaphane human” didn’t turn up relevant 2020 human in vivo studies. I disregarded reviews, cancer studies, disproven hypotheses, and other compounds listed in the below graphic.

I won’t repeat the entire Nrf2 section from the Part 1 curation, just one graphic and paragraph:

It [sulforaphane] is not only a potent Nrf2 inducer but also highly bioavailable [around 80%], so that modest practical doses can produce significant clinical responses. Other Nrf2 activators [shown in the above image] not only lack potency but also lack the bioavailability to be considered as significant intracellular Nrf2 activators.”


As noted in Reviewing clinical trials of broccoli sprouts and their compounds, there are no sulforaphane clinical trials that also use epigenetic clocks. Broccoli sprouts and their compounds’ effects on human aging is an area that hasn’t drawn attention and funding.

What are the effects that broccoli sprouts and their compounds may have on human aging? With this new human-rat relative biological age clock, researchers can get reliable answers from rat studies, with human clinical trials needed only to confirm those findings!

As rejuvenation research continues, what could people do easily, cheaply, and today for our long-term selves? Don’t know about the hypothalamus, but our blood, liver, and heart biological ages may decrease as we reduce inflammation and oxidative stress by eating broccoli sprouts.

I’m at a similar percentage of species maximum lifespan as were the study’s treated subjects. It’s my choice as to what my healthspan will be.

There isn’t evidence today to definitively say that changing my inflammatory phenotype with broccoli sprouts has had / will have rejuvenation effects on biological ages of my cells, organs, and body. But if eating broccoli sprouts every day not only reduces chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as expected, but also makes me younger, I could probably learn to live with that. 🙂

Continued with Part 3 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane.

A rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane

The founder of the epigenetic clock methodology with the coauthor of Aging as an unintended consequence released a 2020 rodent study “Reversing age: dual species measurement of epigenetic age with a single clock” at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.07.082917v1.full.pdf:

“We employed six clocks to investigate the rejuvenation effects of a plasma fraction treatment in different rat tissues. Two of these epigenetic clocks apply to both humans and rats.

The treatment more than halved the epigenetic ages of blood, heart, and liver tissue. A less pronounced, but statistically significant, rejuvenation effect could be observed in the hypothalamus.

The treatment was accompanied by progressive improvement in the function of these organs as ascertained through numerous biochemical/physiological biomarkers and behavioral responses to assess cognitive functions. Cellular senescence, which is not associated with epigenetic aging, was also considerably reduced in vital organs.

Plasma fraction treatment consists of two series of intravenous injections of plasma fraction. Rats were injected four times on alternate days for 8 days. A second identical series of injections were administered 95 days later. In its entirety, the experiment lasted 155 days.

Overall, this study demonstrates that a plasma-derived treatment markedly reverses aging according to epigenetic clocks and benchmark biomarkers of aging.”

The study hasn’t been peer reviewed, so can’t be viewed yet as conclusive. Given that researchers’ single-most valuable asset is their reputations, though, will the findings have major revisions?


I was alerted to the study by Josh Mitteldorf’s blog post Age Reduction Breakthrough, who did his usual excellent curation:

“Most of the explosion in aging research (and virtually all the venture capital startups) are looking to treat aging at the cellular level. Their paradigm is that aging is an accumulation of molecular damage, and they see their job as engineering of appropriate repair mechanisms.

The truth, as Katcher [the lead lab researcher] understands it, is that, to a large extent, aging is coordinated system-wide via signal molecules in the blood. The problem is that there are thousands of constituents represented in tiny concentrations in blood plasma, but conveying messages that cells read. Which of these are responsible for aging?

The two-species clock[s] was [were] a significant innovation, a first bridge for translating results from an animal model into their probable equivalent in humans. Besides the methylation clock[s], the paper presents evidence of rejuvenation by many other measures. For example:

  • IL-6, a marker of inflammation, was restored to low youthful levels;
  • Glutathione (GSH), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and other antioxidants were restored to higher youthful levels;
  • In tests of cognitive function (Barnes maze), treated rats scored better than old rats, but not as well as young rats.;
  • Blood triglycerides were brought down to youthful levels;
  • HDL cholesterol rose to youthful levels; and
  • Blood glucose fell toward youthful levels.

These results bring together three threads that have been gaining credibility over the last decade. Mutually reinforcing, the three have a strength that none of them could offer separately.

  1. The root cause of aging is epigenetic progression = changes in gene expression over a lifetime.
  2. Methylation patterns in nuclear DNA are not merely a marker of aging, but its primary source. Thus aging can be reversed by reprogramming DNA methylation.
  3. Information about the body’s age state is transmitted system-wide via signal molecules in the blood. Locally, tissues respond to these signals and adopt a young or an old cellular phenotype as they are directed.”

Several of these aging measurements are also positively affected by sulforaphane. Using Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease as a reference:

1. “Chronic inflammation”

“Antioxidants in general and glutathione in particular can be depleted rapidly under conditions of oxidative stress, and this can signal inflammatory pathways associated with NF-κB. SFN [sulforaphane] has been shown to inhibit NF-κB in endothelial cells.

Two key inflammatory cytokines were measured at four time points in forty healthy overweight people [our model clinical trial, Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects]. The levels of both interleukin-6 (Il-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) declined over the 70 days during which the sprouts were ingested. These biomarkers were measured again at day 90, wherein it was found that Il-6 continued to decline, whereas CRP climbed again. When the final measurement was taken at day 160, CRP, although climbing, had not returned to its baseline value. Il-6 remained significantly below the baseline level at day 160.”

OMCL2019-2716870.010

2. “Oxidative stress”

“As a mediator for amplification of the mammalian defence system against various stressors, Nrf2 [nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2] sits at the interface between our prior understanding of oxidative stress and the endogenous mechanisms cells use to deal with it. Diseases known to be underpinned by oxidative stress are proving to be more responsive to amplification of cellular defences via Nrf2 activation than by administration of direct-acting antioxidant supplements.

SFN, with absolute bioavailability of around 80%, [is] capable of increasing several endogenous antioxidant compounds via the transcription factor, Nrf2.

Nrf2 is ubiquitously expressed with the highest concentrations (in descending order) in the kidney, muscle, lung, heart, liver, and brain. Nrf2 was shown to prevent endothelial cells from exhibiting a proinflammatory state. Nrf2 is required for protection against glucose-induced oxidative stress and cardiomyopathy in the heart.

Well in excess of 500 genes have been identified as being activated by SFN via the Nrf2/ARE [Antioxidant Response Element] pathway, and it is likely that this underestimates the number as others are being discovered. Of the available SFN clinical trials associated with genes induced via Nrf2 activation, many demonstrate a linear dose-response. More recently, it has become apparent that SFN can behave hormetically with different effects responsive to different doses.

It [sulforaphane] is not only a potent Nrf2 inducer but also highly bioavailable so that modest practical doses can produce significant clinical responses. Other Nrf2 activators [shown in the above image] not only lack potency but also lack the bioavailability to be considered as significant intracellular Nrf2 activators.”


The study’s most relentlessly questioned, scrutinized, and criticized findings may be the two new epigenetic clocks that apply to both humans and rats. The researchers invited other researchers to validate these clocks because:

“If validated, this would be a step change in aging research. Although conservation of aging mechanism could be equally deduced from the existence of multiple individual clocks for other mammals (mouse, dog), the single formula of the human-rat clock that is equally applicable to both species effectively demonstrates this fact.”

The commonalities of this study with efforts to change my inflammatory phenotype with broccoli sprouts were summarized in the Discussion section:

“Apart from rejuvenating the vital organs of the treated rats, plasma fraction also impacted two fundamental physiological processes that underlie a great number of pathologies, namely oxidative stress and inflammation. Within a week of treatment, the markers of chronic inflammation (IL-6 and TNF-α) were significantly reduced and remained low throughout the entire experiment.

Likewise, markers of oxidative stress in brain, heart, lung and liver, which were very much higher in control old rats, were at the end of the experimental period, indistinguishable between plasma fraction-treated old rats and young ones. Concomitant with this drastic reduction in oxidative stress was the augmented levels of antioxidants (GSH, Catalase and SOD) in these tissues, indicating that modulating the levels of ROS [reactive oxygen species] to that of youthful rats is at least one way by which plasma fraction suppresses oxidative stress. It remains to be ascertained whether the rate of ROS generation is also reduced.

The levels of Nrf2, a transcription factor that impacts on oxidative stress, as well as inflammation, were raised by plasma fraction treatment of old rats to those of the young ones, indicating yet another level by which this treatment modulates these two critical processes. Collectively, these results show that plasma fraction treatment impacts not only the overt performances of organs, but also the underlying physiological processes that are pivotal for optimal organ function and health.”

Great stuff, huh? Are you ready to change your phenotype?

Continued with Part 2 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane.

We believe what we need to believe

While getting ready for bed tonight, I mused about how my younger brother had such an idealized postmortem view of our father. As he expressed six years ago in an obituary for our high school Literature teacher:

“I’ll remember my favorite teacher and how much he’s meant to my life. My father and Martin Obrentz were the two people who made me care about the things that make me the person I am today.”

Believe what you need to believe, David. But like I said five years ago in Reflections on my four-year anniversary of spine surgery:

“I don’t remember that my three siblings ever received a paddling or belting, although they were spanked. Even before he retired, 17 years before he died, the Miami-Dade County public school system stopped him and the rest of their employees from spanking, whipping, beating, and paddling children.”


It’s extremely important for a child to have a witness to their adverse childhood experiences. Otherwise, it’s crazy-making when these aren’t acknowledged as truths by anyone else. Especially by those who saw but disavow what they saw.

It didn’t really drum into my conscious awareness until tonight that I had such a witness. It wasn’t my mother, of course, since she directed most of my being whipped with a belt, and beaten with a paddle that had holes in it to produce welts. She has denied and deflected my experiences ever since then.

It wasn’t my siblings, regrettably for all of us. It wasn’t our Miami neighbors.

When I was twenty, I ran across a guy 300 miles north in Gainesville, Florida, named David Eisenberg, if I remember correctly. A couple of weeks after we met, he asked if my father was Fred Rice, Dean of Boys, West Miami Junior High School. He said he had been beaten by my father several times.

Those weren’t early childhood memories like mine. Those were experiences of a young man 12-15 years old during grades 7-9 that he remembered more than a decade later.

I was shocked. It came at a time when I wasn’t ready to face facts about my life, though. I needed fantasies, beliefs to smother what I felt.


I don’t expect that the impacts of my childhood experiences will ever go away. After three years of Primal Therapy that ended a decade ago, at least mine don’t completely control my life anymore.

Dr. Arthur Janov put self-narratives of several patients’ experiences into his May 2016 book Beyond Belief which I partially curated in February 2017. It was partial because I couldn’t read much past Frank’s horrendous story in pages 89 – 105, “The Myth of a Happy Childhood.”

The epigenetics of perinatal stress

This 2019 McGill review discussed long-lasting effects of perinatal stress:

“Epigenetic processes are involved in embedding the impact of early-life experience in the genome and mediating between social environments and later behavioral phenotypes. Since these phenotypes are apparent a long time after the early experience, the changes in gene expression programming must be stable.

Although loss of methylation in a promoter is necessary for expression, it is not sufficient. Demethylation removes a barrier for expression, but expression might be realized at the right time or context when the needed factors or signals are present.

DNA methylation anticipates future transcriptional response to triggers. Comparing steady-state expression with DNA methylation does not capture the full meaning and scope of the regulatory roles of differential methylation.

A model for epigenetic programming by early life stress:

  1. Perinatal stress perceived by the brain triggers release of glucocorticoids (GC) from the adrenal in the mother prenatally or the newborn postnatally.
  2. GC activate nuclear glucocorticoid receptors across the body, which epigenetically program (demethylate) genes that are targets of GR in brain and white blood cells (WBC).
  3. The demethylation events are insufficient for activation of these genes. A brain specific factor (TF) is required for expression and will activate low expression of the gene in the brain but not in blood.
  4. During adulthood a stressful event transiently triggers a very high level of expression of the GR regulated gene specifically in the brain.

Horizontal arrow, transcription; circles, CpG sites; CH3 in circles, methylated sites; empty circles, unmethylated CpG sites; horizon[t]al curved lines, mRNA.”

Points discussed in the review:

  • “Epigenetic marks are laid down and maintained by enzymes that either add or remove epigenetic modifications and are therefore potentially reversible in contrast to genetic changes.
  • The response to early life stress and maternal behavior is also not limited to the brain and involves at least the immune system as well.
  • The placenta is also impacted by maternal social experience and early life stress.
  • Most studies are limited to peripheral tissues such as saliva and white blood cells, and the relevance to brain physiology and pathology is uncertain.
  • The low absolute differences in methylation seen in most human behavioral EWAS raise questions about their biological significance.

  • Although post-mortem studies examine epigenetic programming in physiologically relevant tissues, they represent only a final and single stage that does not capture the dynamic evolution of environments and epigenetic programming in living humans.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6952743/ “The epigenetics of perinatal stress”


Other reviewers try to ignore the times when we were all fetuses and newborns. For example, in the same journal issue was a Boston review of PTSD that didn’t mention anything about the earliest times of human lives! Those reviewers speculated around this obvious gap on their way to being paid by NIH.

Why would researchers ignore perinatal stress events that prime humans for later-life PTSD? Stress generally has a greater impact on fetuses and newborns than even infants, and a greater impact on infants than adults.

Clearing out the 2019 queue of interesting papers

I’m clearing out the below queue of 27 studies and reviews I’ve partially read this year but haven’t taken the time to curate. I have a pesky full-time job that demands my presence elsewhere during the day. :-\

Should I add any of these back in? Let’s be ready for the next decade!


Early life

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12035-018-1328-x “Early Behavioral Alterations and Increased Expression of Endogenous Retroviruses Are Inherited Across Generations in Mice Prenatally Exposed to Valproic Acid” (not freely available)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432818309392 “Consolidation of an aversive taste memory requires two rounds of transcriptional and epigenetic regulation in the insular cortex” (not freely available)

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-018-0265-4 “Intergenerational transmission of depression: clinical observations and molecular mechanisms” (not freely available)

mother

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6454089/ “Epigenomics and Transcriptomics in the Prediction and Diagnosis of Childhood Asthma: Are We There Yet?”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628997/Placental epigenetic clocks: estimating gestational age using placental DNA methylation levels”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770436/ “Mismatched Prenatal and Postnatal Maternal Depressive Symptoms and Child Behaviours: A Sex-Dependent Role for NR3C1 DNA Methylation in the Wirral Child Health and Development Study”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159119306440 “Environmental influences on placental programming and offspring outcomes following maternal immune activation”

https://academic.oup.com/mutage/article-abstract/34/4/315/5581970 “5-Hydroxymethylcytosine in cord blood and associations of DNA methylation with sex in newborns” (not freely available)

https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/JP278270 “Paternal diet impairs F1 and F2 offspring vascular function through sperm and seminal plasma specific mechanisms in mice”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nmo.13751 “Sex differences in the epigenetic regulation of chronic visceral pain following unpredictable early life stress” (not freely available)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6811979/ “Genome-wide DNA methylation data from adult brain following prenatal immune activation and dietary intervention”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00702-019-02048-2miRNAs in depression vulnerability and resilience: novel targets for preventive strategies”


Later life

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6543991/ “Effect of Flywheel Resistance Training on Balance Performance in Older Adults. A Randomized Controlled Trial”

https://www.mdpi.com/2411-5142/4/3/61/htm “Eccentric Overload Flywheel Training in Older Adults”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-019-0151-6 “Epigenetic regulation of the innate immune response to infection” (not freely available)

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-13-6123-4_1 “Hair Cell Regeneration” (not freely available)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6422915/Histone Modifications as an Intersection Between Diet and Longevity”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306453019300733 “Serotonin transporter gene methylation predicts long-term cortisol concentrations in hair” (not freely available)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047637419300338 “Frailty biomarkers in humans and rodents: Current approaches and future advances” (not freely available)

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pcn.12901 “Neural mechanisms underlying adaptive and maladaptive consequences of stress: Roles of dopaminergic and inflammatory responses

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627480/ “In Search of Panacea—Review of Recent Studies Concerning Nature-Derived Anticancer Agents”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0028390819303363 “Reversal of oxycodone conditioned place preference by oxytocin: Promoting global DNA methylation in the hippocampus” (not freely available)

https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/10.2217/epi-2019-0102 “Different epigenetic clocks reflect distinct pathophysiological features of multiple sclerosis”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6834159/ “The Beige Adipocyte as a Therapy for Metabolic Diseases”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8756328219304077 “Bone adaptation: safety factors and load predictability in shaping skeletal form” (not freely available)

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-019-0549-3 “Successful treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder reverses DNA methylation marks” (not freely available)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166223619301821 “Editing the Epigenome to Tackle Brain Disorders” (not freely available)