Exercise substitutes?

Two papers, starting with a 2022 abstract of an ongoing in vitro study with rodent cells:

“Exercise mimetics may target and activate the same mechanisms that are upregulated with exercise administration alone. This is particularly useful under conditions where contractile activity is compromised due to muscle disuse, disease, or aging.

Sulforaphane and Urolithin A represent our preliminary candidates for antioxidation and mitophagy, respectively, for maintaining mitochondrial turnover and homeostasis. Preliminary results suggest that these agents may be suitable candidates as exercise mimetics, and set the stage for an examination of synergistic effects.”

https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1096/fasebj.2022.36.S1.R3745 “Exercise mimicry: Characterization of nutraceutical agents that may contribute to mitochondrial homeostasis in skeletal muscle” (study not available)


A second 2022 paper reviewed what’s known todate regarding urolithins:

“Urolithins (Uros) are metabolites produced by gut microbiota from the polyphenols ellagitannins (ETs) and ellagic acid (EA). ETs are one of the main groups of hydrolyzable tannins. They can occur in different plant foods, including pomegranates, berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.), walnuts, many tropical fruits, medicinal plants, and herbal teas, including green and black teas.

Bioavailability of ETs and EA is very low. Absorption of these metabolites could be increased by co-ingestion with dietary fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Effects of other experimental factors: post-intake time, duration of administration, diet type (standard and high-fat), and ET dosage (without, low, and high ET intake) in ETs metabolism were evaluated in blood serum and urine of rats consuming strawberry phenolics. Highest concentrations were obtained after 2–4 days of administration.

Various crucial issues need further research despite significant evolution of urolithin research. Overall, whether in vivo biological activity endorsed to Uros is due to each specific metabolite and(or) physiological circulating mixture of metabolites and(or) gut microbial ecology associated with their production is still poorly understood.

  • Ability of Uros to cross the blood-brain barrier and the nature of metabolites and concentrations reached in brain tissues need to be clarified.
  • Specific in vivo activity for each free and conjugated Uro metabolite is unknown. Studies on different Uro metabolites and their phase-II conjugates are needed to understand their role in human health.
  • Evidence on safety and impact of Uros on human health is still scarce and only partially available for Uro-A.
  • It is unknown whether there are potential common links between gut microbial ecologies of the two unambiguously described metabotypes so far, i.e., equol (isoflavones) and Uros (ellagitannins).
  • Gut microbes responsible for producing different Uros still need to be better identified and characterized, and biochemical pathways and enzymes involved.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.202101019 “Urolithins: a Comprehensive Update on their Metabolism, Bioactivity, and Associated Gut Microbiota”


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Thyroid function

This 2022 review subject was thyroid function changes:

“Circulating concentrations of thyrotropin (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) are tightly regulated. Each individual has setpoints for TSH and free T4 which are genetically determined, and subject to environmental and epigenetic influence.

What is normal for one individual may not be normal for another, even within conventional definitions of euthyroidism. Notably, circulating TSH exists in several different isoforms with varying degrees of glycosylation, sialylation, and sulfonation which affect tissue availability and bioactivity. This is not reflected in immunoreactive TSH concentrations determined by routine laboratory assays.

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TSH and free T4 relationship analyzed by age in 120,403 patients who were not taking thyroxine treatment. Median TSH for each free T4 integer value (in pmol/ L) was calculated, then plotted as 20-year age bands in adults. Dotted horizontal and vertical lines mark the TSH reference range (0.4 to 4.0 mU/L) and free T4 reference range (10 to 20 pmol/L), respectively.

Mild TSH elevation in older people does not predict adverse health outcomes. In fact, higher TSH is associated with greater life expectancy, including extreme longevity.

In older people, TSH increases with aging without an accompanying fall in free T4. Clinical guidelines now recommend against routine levothyroxine treatment in older people with mild subclinical hypothyroidism.”

https://e-enm.org/journal/view.php?doi=10.3803/EnM.2022.1463 “Thyroid Function across the Lifespan: Do Age-Related Changes Matter?”


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State-dependent memory

This 2021 review by two coauthors of What can cause memories that are accessible only when returning to the original brain state? provided evidence for alternative interpretations of memory experiments:

“Memory consolidation hypotheses postulate a long series of various and time consuming elaborate processes that come to protect memory from disruption after various periods of time. For more than fifty years, consolidation hypotheses led to the idea that:

  1. Memories are fragile and can easily be disrupted; and
  2. Memories require several hours to be encoded (Cellular Consolidation), and extensive periods of time (days to weeks and even months and years), to be definitely stabilized (Systems Consolidation).

Although these views rely on well substantiated findings, their interpretation can be called into question.

An alternative position is that amnesia reflects retrieval difficulties due to contextual changes. This simple explanation is able to account for most, if not all, results obtained in consolidation studies.

memory state dependency

Systems Consolidation can be explained in terms of a form of state-dependency.

Recent memory remains detailed, context-specific (in animals), and vivid (in humans) and very susceptible to contextual changes. With the passage of time, memories become less precise, and retention performance less and less affected by contextual changes.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763421005510 “Revisiting systems consolidation and the concept of consolidation” (not freely available)


I came across this review while trying to understand why a 2022 rodent study felt wrong. That study followed the standard memory paradigm, and I appreciate its lead author providing a copy since it wasn’t otherwise available.

But those researchers boxed themselves in with consolidation explanations for findings. They used drugs to change subjects’ memories’ contexts between training and testing. They didn’t see that tested memories were dependent on subjects’ initial brain states.

This review cited a paper abstracted in Resiliency in stress responses, namely Neurobiological mechanisms of state-dependent learning.


Crab for lunch

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Vascular memory

This 2022 rodent study investigated effects of inducing hypertension for two weeks:

“Hypertension is conventionally associated with a neurohormonal activation from the sympathetic nervous and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone systems. Angiotensin II (AngII) is a potent regulator of blood pressure, and is also a key player in hypertension development.

An initial 2-week exposure to AngII induced profound changes in cardiac and vascular remodeling, including endothelial activation, vascular inflammation and oxidant stress, all of which were maintained up to 3 weeks after AngII withdrawal. This phenotype was sustained despite early normalization of blood pressure after AngII withdrawal.

Our RNAseq pathway analysis suggests involvement of epigenetic regulators involved in methylation, such as PRC2. PCR2 complex catalyzes trimethylation of histone H3 on lysine 27 (H3K27me3), a histone mark necessary for maintaining transcriptional repression during multicellular development.

H3K27me3 AngII

Cell type-specific patterns of H3K27me3 are crucial for preserving cell identity. Consistent with this analysis, we observed a significant increase in H3K27me3 epigenetic mark in aortic tissue, intriguingly, only in both memory conditions.

Transient exposure to Ang II produces prolonged vascular remodeling with robust ACTA2 downregulation, associated with epigenetic imprinting, supporting a memory effect despite stimulus withdrawal. Future characterization of underlying AngII-dependent signaling might unveil new targets for its therapeutic modulation and reversal of this adverse legacy effect.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcvm.2022.854361/full “Sustained Downregulation of Vascular Smooth Muscle Acta2 After Transient Angiotensin II Infusion: A New Model of Vascular Memory”


These subjects’ ages were equivalent to a 20-year-old human:

  • How much earlier could our vascular system retain events we experienced such as epigenetic H3K27me3 increases? Teenaged, late childhood, early childhood, infancy, fetal parts of our lives?
  • How long would these vascular system memories and their continued signaling linger?
  • What experiences could change these long-lasting memories?

Icy fire

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Gut microbiota knowledge through 2021

I’ll curate this 2022 review of what’s known and unknown about our trillions of gut microbiota through its topic headings:

“Most microbial taxa and species of the human microbiome are still unknown. Without revealing the identity of these microbes as a first step, we cannot appreciate their role in human health and diseases.

A. Understanding the Microbiome Composition and Factors That Shape Its Diversity
Effect of Diet Composition on the Microbiome Diversity

  • Macronutrients and Microbiome Diversity
  • Nutrient and Mineral Supplements and Microbiome Diversity

Stress

Drugs

Race and Host Genetics

Aging

Lifestyle

  • Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Urbanization

B. Understanding the Microbiome Function and Its Association With Onset and Progression of Many Diseases

Microbiome Association With Inflammatory and Metabolic Disorders

  • Chronic Inflammation in GIT and Beyond
  • Development of Malignant Tumors
  • Obesity
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Respiratory Diseases

Microbiome Role in Psychiatric, Behavioral, and Emotional Disorders

C. Understanding the Microbiome Function as Mediated by Secreted Molecules

D. Conclusion and Future Directions – A pioneering study aimed to computationally predict functions of microbes on earth estimates the presence of 35.5 million functions in bacteria of which only 0.02% are known. Our knowledge of its functions and how they mediate health and diseases is preliminary.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2022.825338 “Recent Advances in Understanding the Structure and Function of the Human Microbiome”


I took another test last month at the 14-month point of treating my gut microbiota better. Compared with the 7-month top level measurements, what stood out was an increase in relative abundance from 1% to 7% in the Verrucomicrophia phylum that pretty much exclusively comprises species Akkermansia muciniphilia in humans:

top 5 phylum 2-2022

This review termed Akkermansia muciniphilia relative increases as beneficial. Go with the Alzheimer’s Disease evidence didn’t.

Preventing human infections with dietary fibers inferred that insufficient dietary fiber may disproportionately increase abundance of this species. But I already eat much more fiber than our human ancestors’ estimated 100 grams of fiber every day, so lack of fiber definitely didn’t cause this relative increase.

Resistant starch therapy observed:

“Relative abundances of smaller keystone communities (e.g. primary degraders) may increase, but appear to decrease simply because cross-feeders increase in relative abundance to a greater extent.”

I’ll wait for further evidence while taking responsibility for my own one precious life.

Didn’t agree with this review’s statements regarding microbial associations with fear. These reviewers framed such associations as if gut microbiota in the present had stronger influences on an individual’s fear responses than did any of the individual’s earlier experiences. No way.

I came across this review by it citing The microbiome: An emerging key player in aging and longevity, which was Reference 25 of Dr. Paul Clayton’s blog post What are You Thinking?

Also didn’t agree with some of the doctor’s post:

  • Heterochronic parabiosis of young and old animals is wildly different from fecal transfer. Can’t really compare them to any level of detail.
  • Using a rodent young-to-old fecal microbiota transplant study to imply the same effects would happen in humans? Humans don’t live in controlled environments, so why would a young human individual’s gut microbiota necessarily have healthier effects than an old individual’s?
  • Another example was the penultimate paragraph: “By adding a mix of prebiotic fibers to your diet and maintaining a more youthful and less inflammatory microbiome you will have less inflammation, less endotoxaemia and less inflammageing. You will therefore live healthier and longer.” I’m okay with the first sentence. Equivalating the first sentence to both healthspan and lifespan increases in the second sentence wasn’t supported by any of the 45 cited references.

Gut signals

I’ll highlight signaling pathway aspects of this 2022 review:

“The gut bacterial community plays an important role in regulation of multiple aspects of metabolic disorders. This regulation depends, among other things, on production of a wide variety of metabolites by microbiota and on their interactions with receptors on host cells that can activate or inhibit signalling pathways, and either be beneficial and detrimental to the host’s health.

Colonocytes and endocrine cells express a variety of receptors able to sense and transmit signals from the microbial environment:

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  • TLRs cover a wide range of both external stimuli (PAMPs) and internal signals derived from tissue damage. Their activation induces antigen-presenting cell activation, thereby bridging innate and adaptive immune responses, and stimulates signalling cascades as an attempt to fend off microbial invaders or repair damaged tissue.
  • The endocannabinoid signalling system appears to play a key role in regulating energy, glucose, and lipid metabolism but also in immunity, inflammation, and more recently in microbiota-host interactions.
  • Although the primary function of bile acids (BAs) is to regulate digestion and absorption of cholesterol, triglycerides, and fat-soluble vitamins, it has been recently recognised that BAs also serve an endocrine function as they act as signalling molecules. BAs have been shown to modulate epithelial cell proliferation, gene expression, lipid, glucose, and energy metabolism by activating several receptors. Because of their signalling capacities and the fact that BAs are chemically transformed by gut microbiota, BAs can be considered as microbiota-derived signalling metabolites.
  • Numerous AhR ligands exist including environmental triggers, nutrition-derived signals, various phytochemicals, and bacterial metabolites such as tryptophan.

Most signalling metabolites can be produced by large numbers of different gut bacteria, and hence have limited specificity.”

https://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2022/01/31/gutjnl-2021-326789.long “Gut microbiome and health: mechanistic insights”

Gut microbiota’s positive epigenetic effects

Three papers with the first a 2021 review:

“Gut microbiota along with their metabolites are involved in health and disease through multiple epigenetic mechanisms including:

  • Affecting transporter activities, e.g. DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), histone methyltransferases (HMTs), histone acetyltransferases (HATs), and histone deacetylases (HDACs);
  • Providing methyl donors to participate in DNA methylation and histone modifications; and
  • miRNAs that can lead to gene transcriptional modifications.

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These mechanisms can participate in a variety of biological processes such as:

  • Maturation of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs);
  • Maintenance of intestinal homeostasis;
  • Inflammatory response;
  • Development of metabolic disorders; and
  • Prevention of colon cancer.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/13/6933/htm “Dissecting the Interplay Mechanism between Epigenetics and Gut Microbiota: Health Maintenance and Disease Prevention”


A second 2022 review added subjects such as crotonate (aka unsaturated butyrate):

“Studies are carving out potential roles for additional histone modifications, such as crotonylation and ethylation, in facilitating crosstalk between microbiota and host. Lysine crotonylation is a relatively less studied histone modification that is often enriched at active promoters and enhancers in mammalian cells.

While addition or removal of crotonyl motifs can be catalyzed by specialized histone crotonyltransferases and decrotonylases, HATs and HDACs have also been reported to exhibit histone crotonyl-modifying activity. Microbiota stimulate multiple types of histone modifications and regulate activity of histone-modifying enzymes to calibrate local and extra-intestinal chromatin landscapes.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2021.2022407 “Epigenetic regulation by gut microbiota”


A third 2021 review added subjects such as broccoli sprout compounds’ epigenetic effects:

“Glucosinolates are converted into isothiocyanates (ITCs) by bacteria that regulate host epigenetics. Levels of ITCs produced following broccoli consumption are highly dependent on the functional capacity of individual microbiomes, as much interindividual variability exists in gut microbiota composition and function in humans.

Sulforaphane inhibits HDAC activity both in vitro and in vivo, and protects against tumor development. Microbial-mediated production of ITCs represents a strong diet-microbe interaction that has a direct impact on host epigenome and health.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286321000516 “The interplay between diet, gut microbes, and host epigenetics in health and disease”


Clearing the channel

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Every baby needs a sugar mama

This 2021 in vitro study examined butyrate producers:

“Butyrate produced by gut microbiota has multiple beneficial effects on host health. Oligosaccharides derived from host diets, and glycans originating from host mucus, are major sources of its production.

Butyrate is the major energy source for epithelial cells in the distal colon, induces differentiation of colonic regulatory T cells, and functions as an inhibitor of host histone deacetylase. These activities are essential for documented beneficial properties of butyrate, including anti-inflammation, gut immune homeostasis, inhibition of proliferation, and induction of apoptosis of colorectal cancer cells.

FOS-type oligosaccharides (kestose, nystose, fructooligosaccharide) were metabolized by only 6 of 14 butyrate-producing strains tested:

Growth of butyrate producers

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, which is the most abundant butyrate producer in the healthy human gut, metabolized only FOS-type oligosaccharides among tested oligosaccharides. Anaerostipes spp. exhibited a similar pattern, except that A. caccae metabolized kestose but not nystose.

Glycoside hydrolase (GH)32 enzymes exhibiting FOS degradation activities were conserved in all six strains metabolizing FOS, and in three of the eight strains that did not metabolize FOS. This suggests that GH32 enzymes in those three strains are not actively used in metabolism.

The present study highlighted that even if functional genes are present in microbes, they are sometimes unable to metabolize substrates. This should be carefully considered in metagenomic studies to understand metabolic potential of gut microbiota.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2020.1869503 “Characterization of fructooligosaccharide metabolism and fructooligosaccharide-degrading enzymes in human commensal butyrate producers”


These researchers had some work to do to show that selected strains’ characteristics were representative of their species. This post’s title was excerpted from Citation 37.

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Sulforaphane vs. too much oxygen

This 2021 rodent study investigated perinatal effects of hyperoxia and sulforaphane:

“We demonstrated that early-life oxidant-induced acute lung injury had significant consequences later in life on NRF2-dependent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) susceptibility in mice. We also determined that increased antioxidant conditions in utero potentially contribute to a decreased risk of postnatal airway disease as we found that prenatal antioxidant sulforaphane (SFN) protected developing lungs from bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)-like oxidative pathogenesis in mice.

Unexpectedly, our results indicated that prenatal SFN-mediated postnatal protection against BPD-like phenotypes are not NRF2-dependent. Prenatal SFN markedly improved hyperoxia-caused severe BPD-like lung injury parameters in Nrf2−/− pups while we observed relatively marginal protection by in utero SFN in hyperoxia-resistant Nrf2+/+ pups.

SFN is a strong NRF2 and ARE gene inducer for cytoprotection by NRF2 stabilization. However, SFN also acts through other mechanisms, including NF-κB inhibition, MAPK activation, and histone deacetylase inhibition for anti-inflammation, chemoprevention, apoptosis, and autophagy.

Our study provided new insights into infant oxidant lung injury severity influence on persistence of pulmonary morbidity and therapeutic intervention for NRF2 agonists. Our results also provided justification for further studies on feto–placental barrier crossing of SFN metabolites and SFN-triggered molecular and epigenetic aspects of maternal cues for barrier and fetal lung signaling.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/10/12/1874/htm “Murine Neonatal Oxidant Lung Injury: NRF2-Dependent Predisposition to Adulthood Respiratory Viral Infection and Protection by Maternal Antioxidant”


This study’s oral human-equivalent dose for treatment dams was 9 mg sulforaphane (1.67 mg x .081 x 70 kg) every other day during the last half of pregnancy. A small dose per How much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people?

“The daily SFN dose found to achieve beneficial outcomes in most of the available clinical trials is around 20-40 mg.”

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Immune system aging

This 2021 review by three coauthors of Take responsibility for your one precious life – Trained innate immunity cast a wide net:

“Non-specific innate and antigen-specific adaptive immunological memories are vital evolutionary adaptations that confer long-lasting protection against a wide range of pathogens. However, these mechanisms of memory generation and maintenance are compromised as organisms age.

This review discusses how immune function regulates and is regulated by epigenetics, metabolic processes, gut microbiota, and the central nervous system throughout life. We aimed to present a comprehensive view of the aging immune system and its consequences, especially in terms of immunological memory.

aging immune system

A comprehensive strategy is essential for human beings striving to lead long lives with healthy guts, functional brains, and free of severe infections.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12016-021-08905-x “Immune Memory in Aging: a Wide Perspective Covering Microbiota, Brain, Metabolism, and Epigenetics”


Attempts to cover a wide range of topics well are usually uneven. For example, older information in the DNA Methylation In Adaptive Immunity section was followed by a more recent Histone Modifications in Adaptive Immunity section.

This group specializes in tuberculosis vaccine trained immunity studies, and much of what they presented also applied to β-glucan trained immunity. A dozen previously curated papers were cited.

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The impact of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and early life experiences

A 2021 interview with McGill University’s Moshe Szyf:

There is a rejection of transgenerational inheritance as it goes against progressive thinking because it ties us to previous generations. The theory faces rejection because it sounds deterministic.

But if you understand what epigenetics is, it’s not deterministic. There is stability, and there’s also room for dynamic change.

The only way things change in the body for the long term is via epigenetics. We don’t know everything yet, new discoveries are yet to happen, and then we will just say, ‘Wow, it’s so obvious!’

The immune system is tightly connected to the brain and is directly affected by early adversity. Even though we will not be able to learn what’s going on in the brain, as far as epigenetics in living people, we will gain a lot of information from how the immune system responds to early adversity, and how this is correlated with behavioral phenotype and with mental health.

This brings into question the whole field of neuroimmunology, of which there is a lot of data. But it seems that a lot of psychiatrists are totally oblivious to these data, which is astounding, because the glucocorticoid hormone – the major player in this mechanism due to its involvement in early life stress as well as control of behavior – also controls immune function.

Nobody can live long enough to oversee a human transgenerational study. In humans, correlations are usually in peripheral tissue, where changes are small. The jury’s not out yet, but if evolution used it for so many different organisms, some of which are very close to us in the evolutionary ladder, it’s impossible that humans don’t use it.

How are current findings in animal models relevant to humans? How do we develop human paradigms that will allow us to achieve a higher level of evidence than what we have now?

  • One way is the immune-inflammatory connection to other diseases. I think this is where the secret of epigenetic aging lies, as well as epigenetics of other diseases.
  • Every disease is connected to the immune system. The brain translates the behavioral environment to the immune system, and then the immune system sends chemical signals across the body to respond to these challenges.

We need to understand that epigenetic programs are a network. Move beyond candidate genes, understand the concept of a network, and really understand the challenge: Reset the epigenetic network.

Epigenetics is going to be rapidly translated to better predictors, better therapeutics, and more interesting therapeutics. Not necessarily the traditional drug modeled against a crystal structure of an enzyme, but a more networked approach. Ideas about early life stress are critical and have impacted the field of childcare by highlighting the importance of early childhood relationships.”

https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/10.2217/epi-2021-0483 “The epigenetics of early life adversity and trauma inheritance: an interview with Moshe Szyf”


Reworking evolutionary theory

Dr. Michael Skinner coauthored a 2021 review arguing for inclusion of epigenetic transgenerational inheritance into evolutionary theory:

“Over the past 50 years, molecular technology has been used to investigate evolutionary biology. Many examples of finding no correlated genetic mutations or a low frequency of DNA sequence mutations suggest that additional mechanisms are also involved.

  • Identical twins have essentially the same genetics, but generally develop discordant disease as they age.
  • Only a low frequency (generally 1% or less) of individuals that have a specific disease have a correlated genetic mutation.
  • Dramatic increases in disease frequency in the population cannot be explained with genetics alone.

DNA methylation, histone modifications, changes to chromatin structure, expression of non-coding RNA, and RNA methylation can directly regulate gene expression independent of DNA sequence. These different epigenetic factors do not only act independently, but integrate with each other to provide a level of epigenetic complexity to accommodate the needs of cellular development and differentiation.

dvab012f1

Environmental epigenetics is the primary molecular mechanism in any organism that is used to promote physiological and phenotypic alterations. Actions of environmental factors early in development can permanently program the cellular molecular function, which then impacts later life disease or phenotypes.

dvab012f2

Integration of epigenetics and genetics contribute to a Unified Theory of Evolution that explains environmental impacts, phenotypic variation, genetic variation, and adaptation that natural selection acts on. The current review expands this proposed concept and provides a significant amount of supporting literature and experimental models to support the role of environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance in evolution.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8557805/ “Role of environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance in evolutionary biology: Unified Evolution Theory”


Organisms cited in this review’s references are similar to humans in ancestral influences and developmental influences during the first 1000 days of our lives. Humans are different in that even after all these influences, we can choose to influence our own change and individually evolve. We can also change our internal environments per Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway and An environmental signaling paradigm of aging.

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The Illusion of Knowledge: The paradigm shift in aging research that shows the way to human rejuvenation

Dr. Harold Katcher increased interviews to coincide with release of his book this month. Here’s one in four parts that provides highlights of his rejuvenation research progress:


Previously curated papers of his work include:

Gut microbiota and critical development periods

This 2021 rodent study focused on global histone acetylation as a model to understand roles of microbially produced short-chain fatty acids in liver function:

“Despite the utility of germ-free mice in probing complex interactions between gut microbiota and host physiology, germ-free mice are developmentally, physiologically, and metabolically unique when compared with their conventionally housed counterparts. We sought to determine whether antibiotic-mediated microbiota depletion would affect global hepatic histone acetylation states through SCFA-dependent mechanisms, as previously observed in germ-free mice.

The inability of antibiotic-mediated microbiota depletion to recapitulate findings observed in germ-free mice suggests that the transition from a germ-free to a colonized mouse leads to resilient alterations in hepatic histone acetylation states that cannot be altered by further modulating the microbial environment. This finding is distinct from other germ-free phenotypes that are considered to be partially reversible, with clear alterations in their function observed after antibiotic treatment.

histone acetylation

Comparing antibiotic-treated and untreated mice that both received CCl4 at 24 and 48 hours after injury, there were almost no histone acetylation differences. This demonstrates that hepatic injury leads to a global shift in histone acetylation that is primarily independent of gut microbiota.

Major chromatin reorganization driven by histone acetylation leads to markers of differentiation, and addition of targeted differentiation signals induces events to stabilize these histone acetylation patterns – a key feature of embryonic development and terminal cellular differentiation. Differences in histone acetylation patterns seen between germ-free and conventionally raised mice may be a developmental-like effect of hepatocytes not yet exposed to microbial by-products.

Results suggest that microbial and dietary modifications to the gut microbiome in conventionally raised mice are not a means to modulate global hepatic histone acetylation. Microbiota-dependent landscaping of the hepatic epigenome appears static in nature, while the hepatic transcriptome is responsive to alterations in the gut microbiota, yet independent of global histone acetylation.

Findings underscore significant differences between these model systems that should be taken into account when considering their relevance to human biology.”

https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.32043 “Global Microbiota-Dependent Histone Acetylation Patterns Are Irreversible and Independent of Short Chain Fatty Acids” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Elliot S. Friedman for providing a copy.


1. By describing “a key feature of embryonic development,” this study provided a gut microbiota-liver analogy of critical periods. If developmental events don’t happen when they are required, it’s probable that their window is missed, and won’t reopen later for a second chance at normalizing.

2. Many studies used a germ-free animal model, such as:

This study provided evidence for a limitation of this model, especially when extrapolating germ-free animal results to humans without similarly testing humans.


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Natural products vs. neurodegenerative diseases

I was recently asked about taking rapamycin for its effects on mTOR. I replied that diet could do the same thing. Here’s a 2021 review outlining such effects:

“As common, progressive, and chronic causes of disability and death, neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) significantly threaten human health, while no effective treatment is available. Recent studies have revealed the role of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt (Protein kinase B)/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in some diseases and natural products with therapeutic potentials.

Growing evidence highlights the dysregulated PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway and interconnected mediators in pathogenesis of NDDs. Side effects and drug-resistance of conventional neuroprotective agents urge the need for providing alternative therapies.

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Polyphenols, alkaloids, carotenoids, and terpenoids have shown to be capable of a great modulation of PI3K/Akt/mTOR in NDDs. Natural products potentially target various important oxidative/inflammatory/apoptotic/autophagic molecules/mediators, such as Bax, Bcl-2, p53, caspase-3, caspase-9, NF-κB, TNF-α, GSH, SOD, MAPK, GSK-3β, Nrf2/HO-1, JAK/STAT, CREB/BDNF, ERK1/2, and LC3 towards neuroprotection.

This is the first systematic and comprehensive review with a simultaneous focus on the critical role of PI3K/Akt/mTOR in NDDs and associated targeting by natural products.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944711321002075 “Natural products attenuate PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathway: A promising strategy in regulating neurodegeneration” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Sajad Fakhri for providing a copy.


Natural products mentioned in this review that I eat in everyday foods are listed below. The most effective ones are broccoli and red cabbage sprouts, and oats and oat sprouts:

  • Artichokes – luteolin;
  • Blackberries – anthocyanins;
  • Blueberries – anthocyanins, gallic acid, pterostilbene;
  • Broccoli and red cabbage sprouts – anthocyanins, kaempferol, luteolin, quercetin, sulforaphane;
  • Carrots – carotenoids;
  • Celery – apigenin, luteolin;
  • Green tea – epigallocatechin gallate;
  • Oats and oat sprouts – avenanthramides;
  • Strawberries – anthocyanins, fisetin;
  • Tomatoes – fisetin.

Four humpback whales

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