Growing a broccoli sprouts Victory Garden

To follow up How much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people? I’ve started growing broccoli sprouts, and a “30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts incorporated daily into the diet” [1] program. I loosely follow [2]‘s sprouting guidelines. One preparation difference is microwaving per [3]‘s findings as follows:

I put broccoli sprouts into a small casserole dish, add enough water to cover them, then cook in my 1000W microwave on full power for 90 seconds. I immediately dump the broccoli sprouts into a colander and spray with cold water to stop heating at the desired temperature. A linear interpolation of Table S1 would place its temperature after 95 seconds on full 1000W power close to but not exceeding the 60°C goal:

(1000W / 950W) x (((108s -90s) / (60°C – 50°C)) * (95s – 90s))) + 50°C = 59.5°C

The first batch of broccoli sprouts was a mild, cabbage-tasting side dish to the home-style chicken soup on page 238 of [4].

The a priori hypotheses:

    1. 30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts will not have “51 mg (117 μmol)” of glucoraphanin [1] because they “Used the elicitor methyl jasmonate (MeJA) by priming the seeds as well as by spraying daily. MeJA at concentrations of 156 μM act as stressor in the plant and enhances the biosynthesis of the phytochemicals glucosinolates. Compared to control plants without MeJA treatment, the content of compounds as the aliphatic glucosinolate glucoraphanin was enhanced up to 70%.” 117 μmol / 1.70 = 69 μmol is the expected glucoraphanin amount in 30 grams weight of fresh broccoli sprouts.
    2. One measurement [5] of how much sulforaphane is present in fresh broccoli sprouts before microwaving is 100 μmol / 111 g = .9 μmol / g. (.9 x 30 g) = 27 μmol is the expected sulforaphane amount in 30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts.
    3. Microwaving the raw broccoli sprouts will convert the 69 μmol of glucoraphanin to 69 μmol of sulforaphane. Last week a [3] coauthor agreed to make the data available to facilitate calculations. While I’m waiting…The study said the Figure 3 HL60 sulforaphane amount was 2.45 μmol / g. Eyeball estimates of the below Figure 3 control (raw broccoli florets) are a sulforaphane amount of .2 μmol / g and a glucoraphanin amount of 2.2 μmol / g. I assume that the broccoli florets and sprouts glucoraphanin-to-sulforaphane conversions would be the same. A roughly 1-to-1 glucoraphanin-to-sulforaphane conversion of ~2.2 μmol / g + a sulforaphane amount of ~.2 μmol / g is ~2.4 μmol / g of sulforaphane. Note the Figure 3 detrimental effects that continuing cooking for a few more seconds to HL70 (70°C), had on its sulforaphane contents, dropping it below even the control (raw) content!
    4. The estimated sulforaphane amount would be 96 μmol (27 from item 2 + 69 from item 3). This would be a 17 mg weight of sulforaphane (96 / 5.64) [6]. This dosage is comparable to a 2017 clinical pilot study [7] and seven other completed clinical trial dosages of 100 μmol (17.3 mg) listed in [8].
    5. I’ve been sitting around a lot since returning from Milano, Italy, on February 24, 2020, and probably weigh around 75 kg. The estimated dosage represents 96 μmol / 75 kg = 1.28 μmol / kg, which is comparable to the 1.36 μmol / kg average of [1]. (The study provided the subjects’ mean weight in Table 1 as “85.8 ± 16.7 kg.” The average dosage per kg body weight was 117 μmol / 85.8 kg = 1.36 μmol / kg.)
    6. Don’t have a practical estimate of the amount of sulforaphane I metabolize from post-microwave glucoraphanin. Both [7] and [8] cited a 2012 study that found: “Some conversion of GRN to SFN can occur in response to metabolism by the gut microflora; however, the response is inefficient, having been shown to vary ‘from about 1% to more than 40% of the dose.’”
    7. Don’t have a practical estimate of the “internal dose.” [8]

I don’t have a laboratory in my kitchen 🙂 and won’t have quantified results.

References in order of citation:

[1] 2018 Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects

[2] 2017 You Need Sulforaphane – How and Why to Grow Broccoli Sprouts

[3] 2020 Microwave cooking increases sulforaphane level in broccoli curated in Microwave broccoli to increase sulforaphane levels


[4] 2016 Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet: How a Chemical in the Foods We Eat Promotes Disease, Obesity, and Aging and the Steps We Can Take to Stop It

[5] 2016 Effect of Broccoli Sprouts and Live Attenuated Influenza Virus on Peripheral Blood Natural Killer Cells: A Randomized, Double-Blind Study

[6] 2020 lists sulforaphane’s molecular weight as 177.3 g / mol. A 1 mg weight of sulforaphane equals a 5.64 μmol sulforaphane amount (.001 / 177.3).

[7] 2019 Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease

[8] 2019 Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters?

How much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people?

This post compares and contrasts two perspectives on how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people. One perspective was an October 2019 review from John Hopkins researchers who specialize in sulforaphane clinical trials:

Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters?

Since these researchers didn’t give a consumer-practical answer, I’ve presented a concurrent commercial perspective to the same body of evidence via an October 2019 review from the Australian founder of a company that offers sulforaphane products:

Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease

1. Taste from the clinical trial perspective:

“The harsh taste (a.k.a. back-of-the-throat burning sensation) that is noticed by most people who consume higher doses of sulforaphane, must be acknowledged and anticipated by investigators. This is particularly so at the higher limits of dosing with sulforaphane, and not so much of a concern when dosing with glucoraphanin, or even with glucoraphanin-plus-myrosinase.

The presence and/or enzymatic production of levels of sulforaphane in oral doses ranging above about 100 µmol, creates a burning taste that most consumers notice in the back of their throats rather than on the tongue. Higher doses of sulforaphane lead to an increased number of adverse event reports, primarily nausea, heartburn, or other gastrointestinal discomfort.”

Taste wasn’t mentioned in the commercial review. Adverse effects were mentioned in this context:

“Because SFN is derived from a commonly consumed vegetable, it is generally considered to lack adverse effects; the safety of broccoli sprouts has been confirmed. However, the use of a phytochemical in chemoprevention engages very different biochemical processes when using the same molecule in chemotherapy; the biochemical behaviour of cancer cells and normal cells is very different.”

2. Commercial products from the clinical trial perspective:

“Using a dietary supplement formulation of glucoraphanin plus myrosinase (Avmacol®) in tablet form, we observed a median 20% bioavailability with greatly dampened inter-individual variability. Fahey et al. have observed approximately 35% bioavailability with this supplement in a different population.”

Avmacol appeared to be the John Hopkins product of choice, as it was mentioned 15 times in the clinical trials table. Other products were downgraded with statements such as:

“5 or 10 g/d of BroccoPhane powder (BSP), reported to be rich in SF, daily x 4 wks (we have assayed previously and found this not to be the case).”

They also disclaimed:

“We have indicated clinical studies in which label results have been used rather than making dose measurements prior to or during intervention.”

No commercial products, not even the author’s own company’s, were directly mentioned in the commercial perspective.

3. Dosage from the clinical trial perspective:

“Reporting of administered dose of glucoraphanin and/or sulforaphane is a poor measure of the bioavailable / bioactive dose of sulforaphane. As a consequence, we propose that the excreted amount of sulforaphane metabolites (sulforaphane + sulforaphane cysteine-glycine + sulforaphane cysteine + sulforaphane N-acetylcysteine) in urine over 24 h (2–3 half-lives), which is a measure of “internal dose”, provides a more revealing and likely consistent view of the delivery of sulforaphane to study participants.

Only recently have there been attempts to define minimally effective doses in humans – an outcome made possible by the development of consistently formulated, stable, bioavailable broccoli-derived preparations.”

Dosage from the commercial perspective:

“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. This is in addition to its varying effects on different cell types and consequent to widely varying intracellular concentrations.

A 2017 clinical pilot study examined the effect of an oral dose of 100 μmol (17.3 mg) encapsulated SFN on GSH [the endogenous antioxidant glutathione] induction in humans over 7 days. Pre- and postmeasurement of GSH in blood cells that included T cells, B cells, and NK cells showed an increase of 32%. The researchers found that in the pilot group of nine participants, age, sex, and race did not influence the outcome.

Clinical outcomes are achievable in conditions such as asthma with daily SFN doses of around 18 mg daily and from 27 to 40 mg in type 2 diabetes. The daily SFN dose found to achieve beneficial outcomes in most of the available clinical trials is around 20-40 mg.”

The author’s sulforaphane products are available in 100, 250, and 700 mg capsules of enzyme-active broccoli sprout powder. From Eat broccoli sprouts today:

“The bioavailability of sulforaphane in a broccoli sprout extract with the myrosinase enzyme 100 μmol gelcap was 36.1% which weighed 6.4 mg.”

The author’s products convert to 36, 90, and 253 mg sulforaphane dosages. Since only the first is in the review’s recommended “20-40 mg” range, I don’t see a readily apparent conflict.

4. Let’s see how the perspectives treated a 2018 Spanish clinical trial published as Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects.

From the commercial perspective:

“In a recent study using 30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts incorporated daily into the diet, two key inflammatory cytokines were measured at four time points in forty healthy overweight [BMI 24.9 – 29.9] people. 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.

The sprouts contained approximately 51 mg (117 μmol) GRN, and plasma and urinary SFN metabolites were measured to confirm that SFN had been produced when the sprouts were ingested.”

The clinical trial perspective added that the study dosage was “1.67 (GR) μmol/kg BW.” This wasn’t accurate, however. It was assumed into existence by:

“In cases where the authors did not indicate dosage in μmol/kg body weight (BW), we have made those calculations using the a priori assumption of a 70 kg BW.”

117 μmol / 1.67 μmol/kg = 70 kg.

The study provided the subjects’ mean weight in Table 1 as “85.8 ± 16.7 kg.” So the study’s actual average dosage per kg body weight was 117 μmol / 85.8 kg = 1.36 μmol/kg. Was making an accurate calculation too difficult?

The clinical trial review included the study in the informative Section “3.2. Clinical Studies with Broccoli-Based Preparations: Efficacy” subsection “3.2.8. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Related Disorders.” However, this was somewhat misleading, as it was grouped with studies such as the 2012 Iranian Effects of broccoli sprout with high sulforaphane concentration on inflammatory markers in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial (not freely available).

The commercial perspective pointed out substantial differences between the two studies:

“Where the study described above by Lopez-Chillon et al. investigated healthy overweight people to assess the effects of SFN-yielding broccoli sprout homogenate on biomarkers of inflammation, Mirmiran et al. in 2012 had used a SFN-yielding supplement in T2DM patients. Although the data are not directly comparable, the latter study using the powdered supplement resulted in significant lowering of Il-6, hs-CRP, and TNF-α over just 4 weeks.

It is not possible to further compare the two studies due to the vastly different time periods over which each was conducted.”

The commercial perspective impressed as more balanced than the clinical trial perspective.

A. The commercial perspective didn’t specifically mention any commercial products. The clinical trial perspective:

– Effectively promoted one commercial product over others;

– Downgraded several other commercial products; and

– Tried to shift responsibility for the lack of “minimally effective doses in humans” to commercial products with:

“Only recently have there been attempts to define minimally effective doses in humans – an outcome made possible by the development of consistently formulated, stable, bioavailable broccoli-derived preparations.”

Unless four years previous is “recently,” using commercial products to excuse slow research progress can be dismissed. A coauthor of the clinical trial perspective was John Hopkins’ lead researcher for the November 2015 Sulforaphane Bioavailability from Glucoraphanin-Rich Broccoli: Control by Active Endogenous Myrosinase, which commended “high quality, commercially available broccoli supplements” per:

“We have now discontinued making BSE [broccoli sprout extract], because there are several high quality, commercially available broccoli supplements on the market.”

B. The commercial perspective didn’t address taste, which may be a consumer acceptance problem.

C. The commercial perspective provided practical dosage recommendations, reflecting their consumer orientation. These recommendations didn’t address how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people, though.

Practical dosage recommendations are what the clinical trial perspective will eventually have do after they stop dodging their audience – which includes clinicians trying to apply clinical trial data – with unhelpful statements such as:

“Reporting of administered dose of glucoraphanin and/or sulforaphane is a poor measure of the bioavailable / bioactive dose of sulforaphane.”

How practical was their “internal dose” recommendation for non-researcher readers?

Here’s what I’m doing to answer how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people.

I’d like to posthumously credit my high school literature teachers Dorothy Jasiecki and Martin Obrentz for this post’s compare-and-contrast approach. They both required their students to read at least two books monthly, then minimally write a 3-page, single-spaced, compare-and-contrast paper.

You can see from their linked testimonials that their approach was in a bygone era, back when some teachers considered the desired outcome of public education to be that each individual learned to think for themself. My younger brother contributed:

“I can still remember everything Mr. Obrentz ever assigned for me to read. He was the epitome of what a teacher should be.”

Eat broccoli sprouts today

This 2020 Korean letter to a journal editor cited 23 recent papers in support of sulforaphane’s positive effects, mainly in anti-cancer treatments:

“Gene expression is mediated by chromatin epigenetic changes, including DNA methylation, histone modifications, promoter-enhancer interactions, and non-coding RNA (microRNA and long non-coding RNA)-mediated regulation. Approximately 50% of all tumor suppressor genes are inactivated through epigenetic modifications, rather than by genetic mechanisms, in sporadic cancers. Accumulating evidence suggests that epigenetic modulators are important tools to improve the efficacy of disease prevention strategies.

Because sulforaphane (SFN) induces the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-antioxidant response element pathway that induces the cellular defense against oxidative stress, SFN has received increased attention because it acts as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer agent.” “A recent overview on sulforaphane as a dietary epigenetic modulator”

Letters to the editor aren’t peer-reviewed, though. One of the cited papers was a 2018 Czech mini-review that included metabolism, preparation and processing evidence:

“Sulforaphane is a phytochemical that occurs in plants in the form of biological inactive precursor glucoraphanin. This precursor belongs to the group of phytochemicals – glucosinolates – that are rapidly converted to the appropriate isothiocyanate by the enzyme called myrosinase.

The process of transformation takes place after a disruption of plant tissues by biting, chewing, slicing, and other destruction of tissues, when the enzyme myrosinase is released from plant tissues. When the enzyme myrosinase is destroyed during meal preparation (during cooking, steam cooking, or microwave treatment), a likely source of isothiocyanates is the microbial degradation of glucosinolates by the intestinal microflora. However, the hydrolysis by the microflora has been reported to be not very efficient, and in humans it is very diverse and variable.

Content of glucoraphanin in extract from broccoli sprouts was 16.6 μmol per gram of fresh weight. In contrast, mature broccoli extract contained 1.08 μmol per gram of fresh weight. The total amount of glucosinolates in the young broccoli sprouts is 22.7 μmol per gram of fresh weight and 3.37 μmol per gram of fresh weight for mature broccoli.

Percentage amount of sulforaphane formed from its precursor glucoraphanin in broccoli which had not been heat treated and had been lyophilized [freeze-dried] was 22.8%. Broccoli steaming (5 min) and its lyophilization decrease the amount of sulforaphane formed to 4.2%.” “Isothiocyanate from Broccoli, Sulforaphane, and Its Properties (not freely available)

Information about 43 completed sulforaphane clinical trials is here. Among them, the 2014 Effect of Broccoli Sprouts on Nasal Response to Live Attenuated Influenza Virus in Smokers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Study was of particular interest, stating:

“Nutritional interventions aimed at boosting antioxidants may be most effective in individuals who are relatively antioxidant-deficient at baseline, a condition likely to be more prevalent in smokers.”

I didn’t notice regular supplement dosage studies. Maybe I didn’t read the control group information carefully enough?

For those who don’t want to tend a broccoli sprout garden, a 1 mg sulforaphane broccoli sprout extract capsule is available for $.20/day. lists sulforaphane’s molecular weight as 177.3 g/mol. A 1 mg sulforaphane capsule weight equals a 5.64 μmol sulforaphane amount (.001 / 177.3).

From the 2015 Sulforaphane Bioavailability from Glucoraphanin-Rich Broccoli: Control by Active Endogenous Myrosinase:

  • Figure 4 showed the bioavailability of sulforaphane in a broccoli sprout extract with the myrosinase enzyme 100 μmol gelcap was 36.1% which weighed 6.4 mg (36.1 / 5.64).
  • Figure 3 showed that the bioavailability of sulforaphane in freeze-dried broccoli sprouts in pineapple-lime juice was 40.5% in 50, 100, and 200 μmol amounts and 33.8% with 100 μmol gel caps. You do the weight math.
  • Figure 2 showed that if the broccoli sprout extract didn’t have the enzyme, the bioavailability of sulforaphane was 10.4% whether the amount was 69 or 230 μmol, weighing 1.27 mg (69 x .104) / 5.64 and 4.24 mg (230 x .104) / 5.64.

It makes sense to add broccoli sprouts to a sulforaphane capsule to potentially increase bioavailability from the worst case of Figure 2’s 10.4% to the best case of Figure 4’s 36.1%. Eating sprouts at least increases the sulforaphane consumed. But the question of how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people remains unanswered.

Do epigenetic clocks measure causes or effects?

The founder of the PhenoAge epigenetic clock methodology authored this 2020 article:

“The Ge[r]oscience paradigm suggests that targeting the aging process could delay or prevent the risk of multiple major age-related diseases. We need clinically valid measures of the underlying biological process and/or classification criteria for what it means to be biologically, rather than chronologically, “aged”.

The majority of aging biomarkers, including the first-generation epigenetic clocks, are developed using cross-sectional data, in which the researchers take a variable that proxies aging (e.g. chronological age) and apply supervised machine learning, or deep learning, approaches to predict that variable using tens to hundreds of thousands of input variables. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account for mortality selection. This biases the algorithm to select markers that are not causal, but instead correlative with aging.

When considering individuals of the same chronological age, do those with higher epigenetic age look phenotypically older on average (e.g. have higher mortality rates, greater disease burden, and worse physical and cognitive functioning)? FEV1 [forced expiratory volume in one second] declined at a faster rate for individuals with higher baseline GrimAge and/or PhenoAge. A similar finding was observed for the decline in grip strength as a function of GrimAge; however, the rate of change for any of the epigenetic clocks was not associated with rate of change in any performance measure.

Loci that show consistent trends with chronological age, even at higher ages, are likely not causal. By using a cross-sectional study design for biomarker development there was a propensity away from selecting causal loci, to the point where fewer causal loci were selected than if loci had been chosen at random.

The power of these measures as diagnostic and prognostic may stem from the use of longitudinal data in training them. Rather than continuing to train chronological age predictors using diverse data, it may be more advantageous to retrain some of the existing measures by predicting longitudinal outcomes.” “Assessment of Epigenetic Clocks as Biomarkers of Aging in Basic and Population Research” (not freely available)

A cited 2019 study modeled corrections to “account for mortality selection.” It modified datasets “by incorporating correlates of mortality identified from longitudinal studies, allowing cross-sectional studies to effectively identify the causal factors of aging.” “Biomarkers for Aging Identified in Cross-sectional Studies Tend to Be Non-causative” (not freely available)

The article didn’t present a complete case to determine whether an individual’s epigenetic clock measurements over time may show causes of biological aging.

Other viewpoints include:

1. An epigenetic clock review by committee particularly in:

  • Challenge 3 “Integration of epigenetics into large and diverse longitudinal population studies”;
  • Challenge 5 “Single-cell analysis of aging changes and disease”; and
  • Table 1 “Major biological and analytic issues with epigenetic DNA methylation clocks” with single-cell analysis as the solution to five Significant issues.

2. A blood plasma aging clock presented evidence with its 46-protein conserved aging signature that some causes of biological aging are under genetic control. If the principle of this finding applies to CpG DNA methylation, the statement:

Loci that show consistent trends with chronological age, even at higher ages, are likely not causal.

may not hold. Such epigenetic changes could be among both the causes of senescence and the effects of evolution’s selection mechanisms.

Trained immunity responses to bacterial infections

This 2019 Swiss rodent study investigated immune responses to five types of bacterial infections:

“The innate immune system recalls a challenge to adapt to a secondary challenge, a phenomenon called trained immunity. Trained immunity protected mice from a large panel of clinically relevant bacterial pathogens inoculated systematically and locally to induce peritonitis, enteritis and pneumonia.

Induction of trained immunity remodeled bone marrow and blood cellular compartments, providing efficient barriers against bacterial infections. Protection was remarkably broad when considering the pathogens and sites of infection tested.

We are running experiments to delineate the length of protection conferred by trained immunity. Trained immunity is most typically induced with β-glucan.

Mice were injected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Trained mice survived better than control mice (31% vs. 0% survival) and had 10-fold less bacteria in blood 2 days post-infection.

Mice were challenged with a lethal dose of Listeria monocytogenes. Most strikingly, all trained mice survived infection while all control mice died within 5 days. Bacteria were not detected in blood collected from trained mice 2 and 3 days post-infection.”

One of the coauthors also published: “Trained immunity confers broad-spectrum protection against bacterial infections”

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 “Early Behavioral Alterations and Increased Expression of Endogenous Retroviruses Are Inherited Across Generations in Mice Prenatally Exposed to Valproic Acid” (not freely available) “Consolidation of an aversive taste memory requires two rounds of transcriptional and epigenetic regulation in the insular cortex” (not freely available) “Intergenerational transmission of depression: clinical observations and molecular mechanisms” (not freely available)

mother “Epigenomics and Transcriptomics in the Prediction and Diagnosis of Childhood Asthma: Are We There Yet?” epigenetic clocks: estimating gestational age using placental DNA methylation levels” “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” “Environmental influences on placental programming and offspring outcomes following maternal immune activation” “5-Hydroxymethylcytosine in cord blood and associations of DNA methylation with sex in newborns” (not freely available) “Paternal diet impairs F1 and F2 offspring vascular function through sperm and seminal plasma specific mechanisms in mice” “Sex differences in the epigenetic regulation of chronic visceral pain following unpredictable early life stress” (not freely available) “Genome-wide DNA methylation data from adult brain following prenatal immune activation and dietary intervention” in depression vulnerability and resilience: novel targets for preventive strategies”

Later life “Effect of Flywheel Resistance Training on Balance Performance in Older Adults. A Randomized Controlled Trial” “Eccentric Overload Flywheel Training in Older Adults” “Epigenetic regulation of the innate immune response to infection” (not freely available) “Hair Cell Regeneration” (not freely available) Modifications as an Intersection Between Diet and Longevity” “Serotonin transporter gene methylation predicts long-term cortisol concentrations in hair” (not freely available) “Frailty biomarkers in humans and rodents: Current approaches and future advances” (not freely available) “Neural mechanisms underlying adaptive and maladaptive consequences of stress: Roles of dopaminergic and inflammatory responses “In Search of Panacea—Review of Recent Studies Concerning Nature-Derived Anticancer Agents” “Reversal of oxycodone conditioned place preference by oxytocin: Promoting global DNA methylation in the hippocampus” (not freely available) “Different epigenetic clocks reflect distinct pathophysiological features of multiple sclerosis” “The Beige Adipocyte as a Therapy for Metabolic Diseases” “Bone adaptation: safety factors and load predictability in shaping skeletal form” (not freely available) “Successful treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder reverses DNA methylation marks” (not freely available) “Editing the Epigenome to Tackle Brain Disorders” (not freely available)

A blood plasma aging clock

This 2019 Stanford human study developed an aging clock using blood plasma proteins:

“We measured 2,925 plasma proteins from 4,331 young adults to nonagenarians [18 – 95] and developed a novel bioinformatics approach which uncovered profound non-linear alterations in the human plasma proteome with age. Waves of changes in the proteome in the fourth, seventh, and eighth decades of life reflected distinct biological pathways, and revealed differential associations with the genome and proteome of age-related diseases and phenotypic traits.

To determine whether the plasma proteome can predict chronological age and serve as a “proteomic clock,” we used 2,858 randomly selected subjects to fine-tune a predictive model that was tested on the remaining 1,473 subjects. We identified a sex-independent plasma proteomic clock consisting of 373 proteins. Subjects that were predicted younger than their chronologic age based on their plasma proteome performed better on cognitive and physical tests.

The 3 age-related crests were comprised of different proteins. Few proteins, such as GDF15, were among the top 10 differentially expressed proteins in each crest, consistent with its strong increase across lifespan. Other proteins, like chordin-like protein 1 (CHRDL1) or pleiotrophin (PTN), were significantly changed only at the last two crests, reflecting their exponential increase with age.

We observed a prominent shift in multiple biological pathways with aging:

  • At young age (34 years), we observed a downregulation of proteins involved in structural pathways such as the extracellular matrix. These changes were reversed in middle and old ages (60 and 78 years, respectively).
  • At age 60, we found a predominant role of hormonal activity, binding functions and blood pathways.
  • At age 78, key processes still included blood pathways but also bone morphogenetic protein signaling, which is involved in numerous cellular functions, including inflammation.

These results suggest that aging is a dynamic, non-linear process characterized by waves of changes in plasma proteins that are reflective of a complex shift in the activity of biological processes.” “Undulating changes in human plasma proteome across lifespan are linked to disease”

A non-critical review of the study was published by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation. Frequent qualifiers like “could,” “may,” and “possible” were consistent with the confirmation biases of their advocacy.

There were several misstatements of what the study did, including the innumerate:

  1. “used around half of the participant data to build a “proteomic clock”
  2. tested it on the other half of the participants
  3. a total of 3000 proteins”

Per the above study quotation, the numbers were actually:

  1. Closer to two thirds (2,858 ÷ 4,331), not “around half”;
  2. The other third (1,473 ÷ 4,331), not “the other half”; and
  3. 2,925 not 3000.

The final paragraph and other parts of the review bordered on woo. Did a review of the findings have to fit LEAF’s perspective?

In contrast, Josh Mitteldorf did his usual excellent job of providing contexts for the study with New Aging Clock based on Proteins in the Blood, emphasizing comparisons with epigenetic clock methodologies:

“For some of the proteins that feature prominently in the clock, we have a good understanding of their metabolic function, and for the most part they vindicate my belief that epigenetic changes are predominantly drivers of senescence rather than protective responses to damage.

Wyss-Coray compared the proteins in the new (human) proteome clock with the proteins that were altered in the (mouse) parabiosis experiments, and found a large overlap [46 proteins change in the same direction and define a conserved aging signature]. This may be the best evidence we have that the proteome changes are predominantly causal factors of senescence.

46 plasma proteins

Almost all the proteins identified as changing rapidly at age 78 are increasing. In contrast, a few of the fastest-changing proteins at age 60 are decreasing (though most are increasing). GDF15 deserves a story of its own.

The implication is that a more accurate clock can be constructed if it incorporates different information at different life stages. None of the Horvath clocks have been derived based on different CpG sites at different ages, and this suggests an opportunity for a potential improvement in accuracy.”

A commentator linked the below study: “GDF15 Is an Inflammation-Induced Central Mediator of Tissue Tolerance” (not freely available)

which prompted his response:

“Thanks, Lee! This is just the kind of specific information that I was asking for. It would seem we should construct our clocks without GDF15, which otherwise might loom large.”