Taurine week #7: Brain

Finishing a week’s worth of 2022 taurine research with two reviews of taurine’s brain effects:

“We provide a overview of brain taurine homeostasis, and review mechanisms by which taurine can afford neuroprotection in individuals with obesity and diabetes. Alterations to taurine homeostasis can impact a number of biological processes such as osmolarity control, calcium homeostasis, and inhibitory neurotransmission, and have been reported in both metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders.

Models of neurodegenerative disorders show reduced brain taurine concentrations. On the other hand, models of insulin-dependent diabetes, insulin resistance, and diet-induced obesity display taurine accumulation in the hippocampus. Given cytoprotective actions of taurine, such accumulation of taurine might constitute a compensatory mechanism that attempts to prevent neurodegeneration.

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Taurine release is mainly mediated by volume-regulated anion channels (VRAC) that are activated by hypo-osmotic conditions and electrical activity. They can be stimulated via glutamate metabotropic (mGluR) and ionotropic receptors (mainly NMDA and AMPA), adenosine A1 receptors (A1R), and metabotropic ATP receptors (P2Y).

Taurine mediates its neuromodulatory effects by binding to GABAA, GABAB, and glycine receptors. While taurine binding to GABAA and GABAB is weaker than to GABA, taurine is a rather potent ligand of the glycine receptor. Reuptake of taurine occurs via taurine transporter TauT.

Cytoprotective actions of taurine contribute to brain health improvements in subjects with obesity and diabetes through various mechanisms that improve neuronal function, such as:

  • Modulating inhibitory neurotransmission, which promotes an excitatory–inhibitory balance;
  • Stimulating antioxidant systems; and
  • Stabilizing mitochondria energy production and Ca2+ homeostasis.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/6/1292/htm “Taurine Supplementation as a Neuroprotective Strategy upon Brain Dysfunction in Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes”


A second review focused on taurine’s secondary bile acids produced by gut microbiota:

“Most neurodegenerative disorders are diseases of protein homeostasis, with misfolded aggregates accumulating. The neurodegenerative process is mediated by numerous metabolic pathways, most of which lead to apoptosis. Hydrophilic bile acids, particularly tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), have shown important anti-apoptotic and neuroprotective activities, with numerous experimental and clinical evidence suggesting their possible therapeutic use as disease-modifiers in neurodegenerative diseases.

Biliary acids may influence each of the following three mechanisms through which interactions within the brain-gut-microbiota axis take place: neurological, immunological, and neuroendocrine. These microbial metabolites can act as direct neurotransmitters or neuromodulators, serving as key modulators of the brain-gut interactions.

The gut microbial community, through their capacity to produce bile acid metabolites distinct from the liver, can be thought of as an endocrine organ with potential to alter host physiology, perhaps to their own favour. Hydrophilic bile acids, currently regarded as important hormones, exert modulatory effects on gut microbiota composition to produce secondary bile acids which seem to bind a number of receptors with a higher affinity than primary biliary acids, expressed on many different cells.

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TUDCA regulates expression of genes involved in cell cycle regulation and apoptotic pathways, promoting neuronal survival. TUDCA:

  • Improves protein folding capacity through its chaperoning activity, in turn reducing protein aggregation and deposition;
  • Reduces reactive oxygen species production, leading to protection against mitochondrial dysfunction;
  • Ameliorates endoplasmic reticulum stress; and
  • Inhibits expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, exerting an anti-neuroinflammatory effect.

Although Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and cerebral ischemia have different disease progressions, they share similar pathways which can be targeted by TUDCA. This makes this bile acid a potentially strong therapeutic option to be tested in human diseases. Clinical evidence collected so far has reported comprehensive data on ALS only.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9166453/ “Tauroursodeoxycholic acid: a potential therapeutic tool in neurodegenerative diseases”

Taurine week #6: Stress

Two 2022 rodent studies of taurine’s associations with long-term stress, starting with a chronic restraint stress model:

“We show that chronic restraint stress can lead to hyperalgesia accompanied by changes in gut microbiota that have significant gender differences. Corresponding changes of bacteria can further induce hyperalgesia and affect different serum metabolism in mice of the corresponding sex.

Different serum metabolites between pseudo-germ-free mice receiving fecal microbiota transplantation from the chronic restraint stress group and those from the control group were mainly involved in bile secretion and steroid hormone biosynthesis for male mice, and in taurine and hypotaurine metabolism and tryptophan metabolism for female mice.

Effects of gut microbiota transplantation on serum metabolomics of female host: Taurine and hypotaurine metabolism, tryptophan metabolism, serotonergic synapse, arachidonic acid metabolism, and choline metabolism in cancer were the five identified pathways in which these different metabolites were enriched.

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Taurine and hypotaurine play essential roles in anti-inflammation, anti-hypertension, anti-hyperglycemia, and analgesia. Taurine can be used as a diagnostic index for fibromyalgia syndrome and neuropathic pain.

These findings improve our understanding of sexual dimorphism in gut microbiota in stress-induced hyperalgesia and the effect of gut microbiota on blood metabolic traits. Follow-up research will investigate causal relationships between them.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043661822000743 “Gut microbiota and its role in stress-induced hyperalgesia: Gender-specific responses linked to different changes in serum metabolites”

Human equivalents:

  • A 7-8 month-old mouse would be a 38-42 year-old human.
  • A 14-day stress period is about two years for humans.

A second study used a chronic social defeat stress model:

“The level of taurine in extracellular fluid of the cerebral medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was significantly reduced in mice with chronic social defeat stress (CSDS)-induced depression. We found that taurine supplementation effectively rescued immobility time during a tail suspension assay and improved social avoidance behaviors in CSDS mice.

Male C57BL/6 J mice (∼ 23 g) and male CD-1 mice aged 7–8 months (∼ 45 g) were used. CD-1 mice were screened for aggressive behavior during social interactions for three consecutive days before the start of the social defeat sessions. Experimental C57BL/6 J mice were subjected to physical interactions with a novel CD-1 mouse for 10 min once per day over 10 consecutive days.

We found significant reductions in taurine and betaine levels in mPFC interstitial fluid of CSDS mice compared with control mice.

csds taurine betaine

We additionally investigated levels of interstitial taurine in chronic restraint stress (CRS) mice, another depressive animal model. After 14 days of CRS treatment, mice showed typical depression-like behaviors, including decreased sucrose preference and increased immobility time. mPFC levels of interstitial taurine were also significantly decreased in CRS mice.

Taurine treatment protected CSDS mice from impairments in dendritic complexity, spine density, and proportions of different types of spines. Expression of N-methyl D-aspartate receptor subunit 2A, an important synaptic receptor, was largely restored in the mPFC of these mice after taurine supplementation.

These results demonstrated that taurine exerted an antidepressive effect by protecting cortical neurons from dendritic spine loss and synaptic protein deficits.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10571-022-01218-3 “Taurine Alleviates Chronic Social Defeat Stress-Induced Depression by Protecting Cortical Neurons from Dendritic Spine Loss”

Human equivalents:

  • A 7-8 month-old mouse would be a 38-42 year-old human.
  • A 500 mg/kg taurine dose injected intraperitoneally is (.081 x 500 mg) x 70KG = 2.835 g.
  • A 10-day stress period is about a year and a half for humans.

Don’t think aggressive humans would have to be twice as large to stress those around them. There may be choices other than enduring a year and a half of that.

The misnomer of nonessential amino acids

Three papers, starting with a 2022 review:

“Ideal diets must provide all physiologically and nutritionally essential amino acids (AAs).

Proposed optimal ratios and amounts of true digestible AAs in diets during different phases of growth and production. Because dynamic requirements of animals for dietary AAs are influenced by a plethora of factors, data below as well as the literature serve only as references to guide feeding practices and nutritional research.

10.1177_15353702221082658-table5

Nutritionists should move beyond the ‘ideal protein’ concept to consider optimum ratios and amounts of all proteinogenic AAs in diets for mammals, birds, and aquatic animals, and, in the case of carnivores, also taurine. This will help formulate effectively low-protein diets for livestock (including swine and high-producing dairy cattle), poultry, fish, and crustaceans, as well as zoo and companion animals.”

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/15353702221082658 “The ‘ideal protein’ concept is not ideal in animal nutrition”


A second 2022 review focused on serine:

“The main dietary source of L-serine is protein, in which L-serine content ranges between 2 and 5%. At the daily intake of ~1 g protein per kg of body weight, the amount of serine obtained from food ranges between 1.4 and 3.5 g (13.2–33.0 mmol) per day in an adult.

Mechanisms of potential benefits of supplementing L-serine include increased synthesis of sphingolipids, decreased synthesis of 1-deoxysphingolipids, decrease in homocysteine levels, and increased synthesis of cysteine and its metabolites, including glutathione. L-serine supplementation has been suggested as a rational therapeutic approach in several disorders, particularly primary disorders of L-serine synthesis, neurodegenerative disorders, and diabetic neuropathy.

Unfortunately, the number of clinical studies evaluating dietary supplementation of L-serine as a possible therapy is small. Studies examining therapeutic effects of L-serine in CNS injury and chronic renal diseases, in which it is supposed that L-serine weakens glutamate neurotoxicity and lowers homocysteine levels, respectively, are missing.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/9/1987/htm “Serine Metabolism in Health and Disease and as a Conditionally Essential Amino Acid”


A 2021 review subject was D-serine, L-serine’s D-isoform:

“The N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor (NMDAR) and its co-agonist D-serine are currently of great interest as potential important contributors to cognitive function in normal aging and dementia. D-serine is necessary for activation of NMDAR and in maintenance of long-term potentiation, and is involved in brain development, neuronal connectivity, synaptic plasticity, and regulation of learning and memory.

The source of D-amino acids in mammals was historically attributed to diet or intestinal bacteria until racemization of L-serine by serine racemase was identified as the endogenous source of D-serine. The enzyme responsible for catabolism (breakdown) of D-serine is D-amino acid oxidase; this enzyme is most abundant in cerebellum and brainstem, areas with low levels of D-serine.

Activation of the NMDAR co-agonist-binding site by D-serine and glycine is mandatory for induction of synaptic plasticity. D-serine acts primarily at synaptic NMDARs whereas glycine acts primarily at extrasynaptic NMDARs.

In normal aging there is decreased expression of serine racemase and decreased levels of D-serine and down-regulation of NMDARs, resulting in impaired synaptic plasticity and deficits in learning and memory. In contrast, in AD there appears to be activation of serine racemase, increased levels of D-serine and overstimulation of NMDARs, resulting in cytotoxicity, synaptic deficits, and dementia.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.754032/full “An Overview of the Involvement of D-Serine in Cognitive Impairment in Normal Aging and Dementia”


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Are blood epigenetic clock measurements optimal?

This 2022 human study investigated tissue-specific epigenetic clock measurements:

“We used DNA methylation data representing 11 human tissues (adipose, blood, bone marrow, heart, kidney, liver, lung, lymph node, muscle, spleen, and pituitary gland) to quantify the extent to which epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) in one tissue correlates with EAA in another tissue.

Epigenetic age was moderately correlated across tissues:

  • Blood had the greatest number and degree of correlation, most notably with spleen and bone marrow. Blood did not correlate with epigenetic age of liver.
  • EAA in liver was weakly correlated with EAA in kidney, adipose, lung, and bone marrow.
  • Hypertension was associated with EAA in several tissues, consistent with multiorgan impacts of this illness.
  • HIV infection was associated with positive age acceleration in kidney and spleen.
  • Men were found to exhibit higher EAA than women across all tissues when analyzed together. Significant results were also observed in individual tissues (muscle, spleen, and lymph nodes).

men age faster

Blood alone will often fail to detect EAA in other tissues. It will be advisable to profile several sources of DNA (including blood, buccal cells, adipose, and skin) to get a comprehensive picture of the epigenetic aging state of an individual.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-022-00560-0 “HIV, pathology and epigenetic age acceleration in different human tissues”


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CD38 and balance

I’ll highlight this 2022 review’s relationships between inflammation and cluster of differentiation 38:

“We review the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) catabolizing enzyme CD38, which plays critical roles in pathogenesis of diseases related to infection, inflammation, fibrosis, metabolism, and aging.

NAD is a cofactor of paramount importance for an array of cellular processes related to mitochondrial function and metabolism, redox reactions, signaling, cell division, inflammation, and DNA repair. Dysregulation of NAD is associated with multiple diseases. Since CD38 is the main NADase in mammalian tissues, its contribution to pathological processes has been explored in multiple disease models.

CD38 is upregulated in a cell-dependent manner by several stimuli in the presence of pro-inflammatory or secreted senescence factors or in response to a bacterial infection, retinoic acid, or gonadal steroids. CD38 is stimulated in a cell-specific manner by lipopolysaccharide, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and interferon-γ.

dysregulated inflammation

CD38 plays a critical role in inflammation, migration, and immunometabolism, but equally important is resolution of the inflammatory response which left unchecked leads to loss of self-tolerance, tissue infiltration of lymphocytes, and circulation of autoantibodies.

  • Depending upon context, CD38 can either promote or protect against an autoimmune response.
  • Chronic mucosal inflammation and tissue damage characteristic of inflammatory bowel disease predisposes IBD patients to development of colorectal cancer, and the risks increase with duration, extent, and severity of inflammation.
  • Pulmonary fibrosis occurs in the presence of unresolved inflammation and dysregulated tissue repair, and results from an array of injurious stimuli including infection, toxicant exposure, adverse effects of drugs, and autoimmune response.
  • Modulating CD38 and NAD levels in kidney disease may provide therapeutic approaches for prevention of inflammatory conditions of the kidney.
  • Inflammation as well as evidence of senescence are present in pathophysiology of chronic liver diseases that progress to cirrhosis.
  • Inflammation-associated metabolic diseases impair vascular function. Chronic inflammation can lead to vascular senescence and dysfunction.

One cause of NAD decline during aging is due to increase of NAD breakdown in the presence of increased CD38 expression and activity on immune cells, thus linking inflammaging with tissue NAD decline. Other sources of NAD decline include increased DNA-damage requiring PARP1 activation, and decreased NAMPT levels leading to diminished NAD synthesis through the salvage pathway.

Inflammation is among the major risk factors that predispose organisms to age-associated diseases. During aging, accumulation of senescent cells creates an environment rich in proinflammatory signals, leading to ‘inflammaging.’ Metabolically active cells lose their replicative capacity by entering an irreversible quiescent state, and are considered both a cause and a consequence of inflammaging.

Recent findings uncover a major role of CD38 in inflammation and senescence, showing that age-related NAD+ decline and the sterile inflammation of aging are partially mediated by a senescence / senescence associated secretory phenotype (SASP)-induced accumulation of CD38+ inflammatory cells in tissues. Given the clear association between the phenomenon of inflammaging, senescence, and CD38, as well as the impact of CD38 on degradation of NAD and the NAD precursor NMN, future studies should focus on CD38 as a druggable target in viral illnesses.”

https://journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/ajpcell.00451.2021 “The CD38 glycohydrolase and the NAD sink: implications for pathological conditions” (not freely available). Thanks to Dr. Julianna Zeidler for providing a copy.


We extend good-vs.-bad thinking to nature. Does that paradigm explain much, though?

All pieces of a puzzle are important. Otherwise, evolution would have eliminated what wasn’t necessary for its purposes.

Restoring balance to an earlier phenotype suits my purposes. Don’t want to eliminate inflammatory responses, but instead, calm them down so that they’re evoked appropriately.

Lifespan Uber Correlation

This 2022 study developed new epigenetic clocks:

“Maximum lifespan is deemed to be a stable trait in species. The rate of biological function decline (i.e., aging) would be expected to correlate inversely with maximum species lifespan. Although aging and maximum lifespan are intimately intertwined, they nevertheless appear in some investigations to be distinct processes.

Some cytosines conserved across mammals exhibit age-related methylation changes so consistent that they were used to successfully develop cross-species age predictors. In a similar vein, methylation levels of some conserved cytosines correlate highly with species lifespan, leading to the development of highly accurate lifespan predictors. Surprisingly, little to no commonality is found between these two sets of cytosines.

We correlated the intra-species age correlation with maximum lifespan across mammalian species. We refer to this correlation of correlations as Lifespan Uber Correlation (LUC).

We overlapped genes from the LUC signature with genes found in human genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of various pathologies and conditions. With all due caution, we report that some genes from the LUC signature were those highlighted by GWAS to be associated with type II diabetes, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and breast cancer.

Human aging genes vs mammalian LUC

We used the subset of CpGs found to be significant in our LUC to build age estimators (epigenetic clocks). We demonstrated that these clocks are able to capture effects of interventions that are known to alter age as well as lifespan, such as caloric restriction, growth hormone receptor knockout, and high-fat diet.

We found that Bcl11b heterozygous knockout mice exhibited an increased epigenetic age in the striatum. BCL11B is a zinc finger protein with a wide range of functions, including development of the brain, immune system, and cardiac system.

This gene is also implicated in several human diseases including, but not limited to, Huntington disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, HIV, and T-cell malignancies. BCL11B plays an important role in adult neurogenesis, but is less studied in the context of lifespan disparities in mammals.

Bcl11b knockout affected both DNA methylation and mRNA expression of LUC genes. Our current study does not inform us about the potential role of Bcl11b in aging processes during adulthood since observed patterns could be attributed to developmental defects.

We are characterizing other genetic and non-genetic interventions that perturb the LUC clocks. These we will feature in a separate report that will uncover biological processes regulated by LUC cytosines and their associated genes.”

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.01.16.476530v1 “Divergent age-related methylation patterns in long and short-lived mammals”


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Defend yourself with taurine

This densely packed 2021 review subject was taurine:

“Taurine (Tau), a sulphur-containing non-proteinogenic β-amino acid, has a special place as an important natural modulator of antioxidant defence networks:

  • Direct antioxidant effect of Tau due to scavenging free radicals is limited, and could be expected only in a few tissues (heart and eye) with comparatively high concentrations.
  • Maintaining optimal Tau status of mitochondria controls free radical production.
  • Indirect antioxidant activities of Tau due to modulating transcription factors leading to upregulation of the antioxidant defence network are likely to be major molecular mechanisms of Tau’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
  • A range of toxicological models clearly show protective antioxidant-related effects of Tau.”

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https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/10/12/1876/htm “Taurine as a Natural Antioxidant: From Direct Antioxidant Effects to Protective Action in Various Toxicological Models”


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Epigenetic clocks so far in 2021

2021’s busiest researcher took time out this month to update progress on epigenetic clocks:

Hallmarks of aging aren’t all associated with epigenetic aging.

epigenetic aging vs. hallmarks of aging

Interventions that increase cellular lifespan aren’t all associated with epigenetic aging.

epigenetic aging vs. cellular lifespan

Many of his authored or coauthored 2021 papers developed human / mammalian species relative-age epigenetic clocks.

epigenetic clock mammalian maximum lifespan

Relative-age epigenetic clocks better predict human results from animal testing.

pan-mammalian epigenetic clock


Previously curated papers that were mentioned or relevant included:

Take taurine for your mitochondria

This 2021 review summarized taurine’s beneficial effects on mitochondrial function:

“Taurine supplementation protects against pathologies associated with mitochondrial defects, such as aging, mitochondrial diseases, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders. Potential mechanisms by which taurine exerts its antioxidant activity in maintaining mitochondria health include:

  1. Conjugates with uridine on mitochondrial tRNA to form a 5-taurinomethyluridine for proper synthesis of mitochondrial proteins (mechanism 1), which regulates the stability and functionality of respiratory chain complexes;
  2. Reduces superoxide generation by enhancing the activity of intracellular antioxidants (mechanism 2);
  3. Prevents calcium overload and prevents reduction in energy production and collapse of mitochondrial membrane potential (mechanism 3);
  4. Directly scavenges HOCl to form N-chlorotaurine in inhibiting a pro-inflammatory response (mechanism 4); and
  5. Inhibits mitochondria-mediated apoptosis by preventing caspase activation or by restoring the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio and preventing Bax translocation to the mitochondria to promote apoptosis.

taurine mechanisms

An analysis on pharmacokinetics of oral supplementation (4 g) in 8 healthy adults showed a baseline taurine content in a range of 30 μmol to 60 μmol. Plasma content increased to approximately 500 μmol 1.5 h after taurine intake. Plasma content subsequently decreased to baseline level 6.5 h after intake.

We discuss antioxidant action of taurine, particularly in relation to maintenance of mitochondria function. We describe human studies on taurine supplementation in several mitochondria-associated pathologies.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/26/16/4913/html “The Role of Taurine in Mitochondria Health: More Than Just an Antioxidant”


I take a gram of taurine at breakfast and at dinner along with other supplements and 3-day-old Avena sativa oat sprouts. Don’t think my other foods’ combined taurine contents are more than one gram, because none are found in various top ten taurine-containing food lists.

As a reminder, your mitochondria came from your mother, except in rare cases.

Prevent your brain from shrinking

My 800th curation is a 2021 human diet and lifestyle study:

“Brain atrophy is correlated with risk of cognitive impairment, functional decline, and dementia. This study (a) examines the statistical association between brain volume (BV) and age for Tsimane, and (b) compares this association to that of 3 industrialized populations in the United States and Europe.

Tsimane forager-horticulturists of Bolivia have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any studied population, and present few cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. They have a high burden of infections and inflammation, reflected by biomarkers of chronic immune activation, including higher leukocytes counts, faster erythrocyte sedimentation rates, and higher levels of C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and immunoglobulin-E than in Americans of all ages.

The Tsimane have endemic polyparasitism involving helminths and frequent gastrointestinal illness. Most morbidity and mortality in this population is due to infections.

brain volume

The Tsimane exhibit smaller age-related BV declines relative to industrialized populations, suggesting that their low CVD burden outweighs their high, infection-driven inflammatory risk. If:

  1. Cross-sectional data (which we believe are population-representative of Tsimane adults aged 40 and older) represent well the average life course of individuals; and
  2. The Tsimane are representative of the baseline case prior to urbanization;

these results suggest a ~70% increase in the rates of age-dependent BV decrease accompanying industrialized lifestyles.

Despite its limitations, this study suggests:

  • Brain atrophy may be slowed substantially by lifestyles associated with very low CVD risk; and
  • There is ample scope for interventions to improve brain health, even in the presence of chronically high systemic inflammation.

Lastly, the slow rate of age-dependent BV decrease in the Tsimane raises new questions about dementia, given the role of both infections and vascular factors in dementia risk.”

https://gurven.anth.ucsb.edu/sites/default/files/sitefiles/papers/irimiaetal2021.pdf “The indigenous South American Tsimane exhibit relatively modest decrease in brain volume with age despite high systemic inflammation”


I came across this study by its citation in Dr. Paul Clayton’s 2021 blog post We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Improving epigenetic clocks’ signal-to-noise ratio

This 2021 computational study investigated several methods of improving epigenetic clock reliability:

“Epigenetic clocks are widely used aging biomarkers calculated from DNA methylation data. Unfortunately, measurements for individual CpGs can be surprisingly unreliable due to technical noise, and this may limit the utility of epigenetic clocks.

Noise produces deviations up to 3 to 9 years between technical replicates for six major epigenetic clocks. Elimination of low-reliability CpGs does not ameliorate this issue.

We present a novel computational multi-step solution to address this noise, involving performing principal component analysis (PCA) on the CpG-level data followed by biological age prediction using principal components as input. This method extracts shared systematic variation in DNAm while minimizing random noise from individual CpGs.

Our novel principal-component versions of six clocks show agreement between most technical replicates within 0 to 1.5 years, equivalent or improved prediction of outcomes, and more stable trajectories in longitudinal studies and cell culture. This method entails only one additional step compared to traditional clocks, does not require prior knowledge of CpG reliabilities, and can improve the reliability of any existing or future epigenetic biomarker.

PC-based clocks showed greatly improved agreement between technical replicates, with 90+% agreeing within 1-1.5 years. The median deviation ranged from 0.3 to 0.8 years, whereas CpG clocks ranged from 0.9-2.4 years.

PCPhenoAge vs. PhenoAge

The most dramatic improvement was in PhenoAge. CpG-trained PhenoAge has a median deviation of 2.4 years, 3rd quartile of 5 years, and maximum of 8.6 years. In contrast, PCPhenoAge has a median deviation of 0.6 years, 3rd quartile of 0.9 years, and maximum of 1.6 years. PCPhenoAge was trained directly on phenotypic age based on clinical biomarkers rather than DNAm.

Correlations between different PC clocks was stronger than between CpG clocks. This may be partly due to the shared set of CpGs used to train PCs, or due to the reduction of noise that would have biased correlations towards the null. Correlations between PC clocks and CpG clocks tended to be stronger compared to correlations between CpG clocks and CpG clocks, consistent with a reduction of noise.

PC clocks preserve relevant aging signals unique to each of their CpG counterparts. They reduce technical variance but maintain relevant biological variance.

PCA is a commonly used tool and does not require specialized knowledge. High reliability of principal component-based epigenetic clocks will make them particularly useful for applications in personalized medicine and clinical trials evaluating novel aging interventions.”

https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igab046.015 “A Computational Solution to Bolster Epigenetic Clock Reliability for Clinical Trials and Longitudinal Tracking”


I appreciate that a coauthor – who is the originator of PhenoAge – is open to evidence and improvements. There’s a fun do-it-yourself demo of PCA at https://setosa.io/ev/principal-component-analysis/.

I found this study from it citing a 2021 review:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1084952121000094 “Aging biomarkers and the brain” (not freely available)

I found that review from it citing a 2020 study:

https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(20)30384-9 “Human Gut Microbiome Aging Clock Based on Taxonomic Profiling and Deep Learning”

Maybe this last study could be improved from its “mean absolute error of 5.91 years” with PCA? See Part 2 for another view.


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The amino acid ergothioneine

A trio of papers on ergothioneine starts with a 2019 human study. 3,236 people without cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus ages 57.4 ± 6.0 were measured for 112 metabolites, then followed-up after 20+ years:

“We identified that higher ergothioneine was an independent marker of lower risk of cardiometabolic disease and mortality, which potentially can be induced by a specific healthy dietary intake.

overall mortality and ergothioneine

Ergothioneine exists in many dietary sources and has especially high levels in mushrooms, tempeh, and garlic. Ergothioneine has previously been associated with a higher intake of vegetables, seafood and with a lower intake of solid fats and added sugar as well as associated with healthy food patterns.”

https://heart.bmj.com/content/106/9/691 “Ergothioneine is associated with reduced mortality and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease”


I came across this study by its citation in a 2021 review:

“The body has evolved to rely on highly abundant low molecular weight thiols such as glutathione to maintain redox homeostasis but also play other important roles including xenobiotic detoxification and signalling. Some of these thiols may also be derived from diet, such as the trimethyl-betaine derivative of histidine, ergothioneine (ET).

image description

ET can be found in most (if not all) tissues, with differential rates of accumulation, owing to differing expression of the transporter. High expression of the transporter, and hence high levels of ET, is observed in certain cells (e.g. blood cells, bone marrow, ocular tissues, brain) that are likely predisposed to oxidative stress, although other tissues can accumulate high levels of ET with sustained administration. This has been suggested to be an adaptive physiological response to elevate ET in the damaged tissue and thereby limit further injury.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213231721000161 “Ergothioneine, recent developments”


The coauthors of this review were also coauthors of a 2018 review:

“Ergothioneine is avidly taken up from the diet by humans and other animals through a transporter, OCTN1. Ergothioneine is not rapidly metabolised, or excreted in urine, and has powerful antioxidant and cytoprotective properties.

ergothioneine in foods

Effects of dietary ET supplementation on oxidative damage in young healthy adults found a trend to a decrease in oxidative damage, as detected in plasma and urine using several established biomarkers of oxidative damage, but no major decreases. This could arguably be a useful property of ET: not interfering with important roles of ROS/RNS in healthy tissues, but coming into play when oxidative damage becomes excessive due to tissue injury, toxin exposure or disease, and ET is then accumulated.”

https://febs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/1873-3468.13123 “Ergothioneine – a diet-derived antioxidant with therapeutic potential”


I’m upping a half-pound of mushrooms every day to 3/4 lb. (340 g). Don’t think I could eat more garlic than the current six cloves.

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I came across this subject in today’s video:

Rhythmicity

This 2021 review subject was circadian signaling in the digestive system:

“The circadian system controls diurnal rhythms in gastrointestinal digestion, absorption, motility, hormones, barrier function, and gut microbiota. The master clock, located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) region of the hypothalamus, is synchronized or entrained by the light–dark cycle and, in turn, synchronizes clocks present in peripheral tissues and organs.

Rhythmic clock gene expression can be observed in almost every cell outside the SCN. These rhythms persist in culture, indicating that these cells also contain an endogenous circadian clock system.

Processes in the gastrointestinal tract and its accessory digestive organs display 24-hour rhythmicity:

Clock disruption has been associated with disturbances in gut motility. In an 8-day randomized crossover study, in which 14 healthy young adults were subjected to simulated day-shift or night-shift sleeping schedules, circadian misalignment increased postprandial hunger hormone ghrelin levels by 10.4%.

Leptin, a satiety hormone produced by white adipose tissue, peaks at night in human plasma. A volunteer ate and slept at all phases of the circadian cycle by scheduling seven recurring 28-hour ‘days’ in dim light and eating four isocaloric meals every ‘day’. Plasma leptin levels followed the forced 28-hour behavioural cycle, while their endogenous 24-hour rhythm was lost. However, since meal timing can entrain the circadian system, this forced desynchrony study could not exclude a potential role of the circadian system.

Another constant routine protocol study with 20 healthy participants showed that rhythms in plasma lipids differed substantially between individuals, suggesting the existence of different circadian metabolic phenotypes.

Composition, function, and absolute abundance of gut microbiota oscillate diurnally. For example, microbial pathways involved in cell growth, DNA repair and energy metabolism peaked during the dark phase, while detoxification, environmental sensing and motility peaked during the day.

It is unclear how phase information is communicated to gut microbiota. However, human commensal bacterium Enterobacter aerogenes showed an endogenous, temperature-compensated 24-hour pattern of swarming and motility in response to melatonin, suggesting that the host circadian system might regulate microbiota by entraining bacterial clocks.

With increasing popularity of time-restricted eating as a dietary intervention, which entrains peripheral clocks of the gastrointestinal tract, studies investigating circadian clocks in the human digestive system are highly needed. Additionally, further research is needed to comprehend shifts in temporal relationships between different gut hormones during chronodisruption.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-020-00401-5 “Circadian clocks in the digestive system” (not freely available). Thanks to Dr. Inge Depoortere for providing a copy.


This review included many more human examples. I mainly quoted gut interactions.

A long time ago I was successively stationed on four submarines. An 18-hour schedule while underwater for weeks and months wiped out my circadian rhythms.

The U.S. Navy got around to studying 18-hour schedule effects this century. In 2014, submarine Commanding Officers were reportedly authorized to switch their crews to a 24-hour schedule.

Surface! Surface! Surface!

Treat your gut microbiota as one of your organs

Two 2021 reviews covered gut microbiota. The first was gut microbial origins of metabolites produced from our diets, and mutual effects:

“Gut microbiota has emerged as a virtual endocrine organ, producing multiple compounds that maintain homeostasis and influence function of the human body. Host diets regulate composition of gut microbiota and microbiota-derived metabolites, which causes a crosstalk between host and microbiome.

There are bacteria with different functions in the intestinal tract, and they perform their own duties. Some of them provide specialized support for other functional bacteria or intestinal cells.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are metabolites of dietary fibers metabolized by intestinal microorganisms. Acetate, propionate, and butyrate are the most abundant (≥95%) SCFAs. They are present in an approximate molar ratio of 3 : 1 : 1 in the colon.

95% of produced SCFAs are rapidly absorbed by colonocytes. SCFAs are not distributed evenly; they are decreased from proximal to distal colon.

Changing the distribution of intestinal flora and thus distribution of metabolites may have a great effect in treatment of diseases because there is a concentration threshold for acetate’s different impacts on the host. Butyrate has a particularly important role as the preferred energy source for the colonic epithelium, and a proposed role in providing protection against colon cancer and colitis.

There is a connection between acetate and butyrate distinctly, which suggests significance of this metabolite transformation for microbiota survival. The significance may even play an important role in disease development.

  • SCFAs can modulate progression of inflammatory diseases by inhibiting HDAC activity.
  • They decrease cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-α.
  • Their inhibition of HDAC may work through modulating NF-κB activity via controlling DNA transcription.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2021/6658674/ “Gut Microbiota-Derived Metabolites in the Development of Diseases”


A second paper provided more details about SCFAs:

“SCFAs not only have an essential role in intestinal health, but also enter systemic circulation as signaling molecules affecting host metabolism. We summarize effects of SCFAs on glucose and energy homeostasis, and mechanisms through which SCFAs regulate function of metabolically active organs.

Butyrate is the primary energy source for colonocytes, and propionate is a gluconeogenic substrate. After being absorbed by colonocytes, SCFAs are used as substrates in mitochondrial β-oxidation and the citric acid cycle to generate energy. SCFAs that are not metabolized in colonocytes are transported to the liver.

  • Uptake of propionate and butyrate in the liver is significant, whereas acetate uptake in the liver is negligible.
  • Only 40%, 10%, and 5% of microbial acetate, propionate, and butyrate, respectively, reach systemic circulation.
  • In the brain, acetate is used as an important energy source for astrocytes.

Butyrate-mediated inhibition of HDAC increases Nrf2 expression, which has been shown to lead to an increase of its downstream targets to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Deacetylase inhibition induced by butyrate also enhances mitochondrial activity.

SCFAs affect the gut-brain axis by regulating secretion of metabolic hormones, induction of intestinal gluconeogenesis (IGN), stimulation of vagal afferent neurons, and regulation of the central nervous system. The hunger-curbing effect of the portal glucose signal induced by IGN involves activation of afferents from the spinal cord and specific neurons in the parabrachial nucleus, rather than afferents from vagal nerves.

Clinical studies have indicated a causal role for SCFAs in metabolic health. A novel targeting method for colonic delivery of SCFAs should be developed to achieve more consistent and reliable dosing.

The gut-host signal axis may be more resistant to such intervention by microbial SCFAs, so this method should be tested for ≥3 months. In addition, due to inter-individual variability in microbiota and metabolism, factors that may directly affect host substrate and energy metabolism, such as diet and physical activity, should be standardized or at least assessed.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2021/6632266/ “Modulation of Short-Chain Fatty Acids as Potential Therapy Method for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”


Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes?

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

“We examine available data supporting a role for GSH 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 availability of its precursors or 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 expression of GSH and GSH-related enzymes are not evenly distributed across all cell types, requiring 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 synthesis and recycling of GSH through 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. These 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 amino acid glycine:

“Endogenous synthesis is insufficient to meet metabolic demands for most mammals (including humans) and additional glycine must be obtained from 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. 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 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