Minds of their own

It’s the weekend, so it’s time for: Running errands? Watching sports? Other conditioned behavior?

Or maybe broadening our cognitive ability with Dr. Michael Levin’s follow-ups to his 2021 Basal cognition paper and 2020 Electroceuticals presentation with a 2022 paper and presentation starting around the 13:30 mark:

Michael Levin - Cell Intelligence in Physiological and Morphological Spaces

“A homeostatic feedback is usually thought of as a single variable such as temperature or pH. The set point has been found to be a large-scale geometry, a descriptor of a complex data structure.”


His 2022 paper Technological Approach to Mind Everywhere: An Experimentally-Grounded Framework for Understanding Diverse Bodies and Minds:

“It is proposed that the traditional problem-solving behavior we see in standard animals in 3D space is just a variant of evolutionarily more ancient capacity to solve problems in metabolic, physiological, transcriptional, and morphogenetic spaces (as one possible sequential timeline along which evolution pivoted some of the same strategies to solve problems in new spaces).

Developmental bioelectricity works alongside other modalities such as gene-regulatory networks, biomechanics, and biochemical systems. Developmental bioelectricity provides a bridge between the early problem-solving of body anatomy and the more recent complexity of behavioral sophistication via brains.

This unification of two disciplines suggests a number of hypotheses about the evolutionary path that pivoted morphogenetic control mechanisms into cognitive capacities of behavior, and sheds light on how Selves arise and expand.

While being very careful with powerful advances, it must also be kept in mind that existing balance was not achieved by optimizing happiness or any other quality commensurate with modern values. It is the result of dynamical systems properties shaped by meanderings of the evolutionary process and the harsh process of selection for survival capacity.”


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An inflammation clock

Here are six 2022 papers that either cited the second study of Variable aging measurements, or provided further evidence for its findings. Let’s start with a citing study:

“This study aimed to investigate expression patterns and prognostic values of the inflammatory aging clock (iAge) in glioblastoma (GBM), and its relations with stem cells. Similar to epigenetic clocks and transcriptomic clocks, iAge could track multifaceted aging phenotypes and have clinical significance in translation medicine.

iAge was positively correlated with chronological age, and highly associated with immune cells and inflammatory activities. iAge could serve as a prognostic biomarker for overall survival, and could precisely predict GBM stem cells stemness.

We identified the physiological importance and function of iAge in GBM, and provided novel insights into how iAge is a critical event for development of GBM.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgene.2022.925469/full “Inflammatory aging clock: A cancer clock to characterize the patients’ subtypes and predict the overall survival in glioblastoma”


Beginning with a human osteoporosis study, five papers investigated cytokine CXCL9, which the iAge study found to be “clearly actionable as shown by our experiments in CXCL9 where we can reverse aging phenotypes.”

“We assessed whether levels of CXCL9 and CXCL10 were elevated in human serum samples of older adults who had incident hip fractures. Our findings revealed higher serum levels of CXCL9 in pre-fracture blood samples of men with subsequent hip fractures, compared with their non-fracture controls. There was no such difference in CXCL9 serum levels between cases and controls in women.

Serum CXCL9 improved the prediction of osteoporotic hip fracture in men. The association between CXCL10 and hip fracture risk was not statistically significant in either sex.

While our epidemiologic findings are supported by experimental data providing the mechanistic pathway for CXCL9 in regulating osteoclast recruitment, further studies are needed to confirm validity of our findings and determine their generalizability to other study populations. Underlying biological mechanisms that limit our findings to men but not women require further investigation.”

https://asbmr.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jbmr.4646 “CXCL9 Predicts the Risk of Osteoporotic Hip Fracture in a Prospective Cohort of Chinese Men—A Matched Case–Control Study”


Two immune-mediated skin diseases, with a vitiligo review:

“Current findings emphasize the critical role of immune cells and their mediators in the immunopathogenesis of vitiligo. IFN-γ [interferon gamma] is the primary cytokine mediator that activates the JAK/STAT pathway, causing keratinocytes to produce the key chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL10.

Interactions between immune and non-immune cells finally result in apoptosis of melanocytes. Additional investigations of these pathways may provide an opportunity for finding possible therapeutic targets, as there are currently no targeted biological drugs available for treatment of vitiligo.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9059/10/7/1639/htm “Current Concepts of Vitiligo Immunopathogenesis”

and a study of psoriasis:

“CXCL9 is an important chemokine involved in T cell recruitment, and is up-regulated in plasma of patients with psoriasis. Increased CXCL9 expression can aggravate the progression of psoriasis.

cxcl9 expression

IL-1β and CXCL9 were up-regulated and CLDN8 was down-regulated in psoriasis with statistically significant differences. Identification of potential key molecular markers and signaling pathways provides potential research directions for further understanding molecular mechanisms of psoriasis.”

https://www.wjgnet.com/2307-8960/full/v10/i18/5965.htm “Identification of potential key molecules and signaling pathways for psoriasis based on weighted gene co-expression network analysis”


Two lung-related studies, first, an editorial for a human lung transplant study that isn’t freely available:

“CXCL9 and CXCL10 are chemokines that bind to the shared receptor CXCR3, potentiating T cells, mononuclear cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. Previous studies demonstrated that presence of these chemokines in bronchoalveolar lavage samples preceded development of chronic lung allograft dysfunction (CLAD).

Acute rejection and acute lung injury are known risk factors to the development of CLAD, yet this study found that increased risk was dependent on the presence of CXCL9/CXCL10 plasma elevation. Early identification of patients at risk, possibly during the active inflammatory phase, rather than once abnormal wound healing pathways dominate resulting in irreversible injury, provides an attractive opportunity for intervention.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajt.17135 “CXCL9 and CXCL10 plasma levels: Potential keys to unlocking CLAD risk”

and a study of smoking effects:

“We collected blood samples from 78 healthy male volunteers aged 18–60, including non-smokers (n = 30), current smokers (n = 30), and ex-smokers (n = 18). Expression levels of CXCL9/MIG [monokine induced by IFN-γ] and sIL-6R significantly increased after smoking, and continued to increase after quitting smoking.

cxcl9 smoking

Changes in related cytokines after smoking cessation are mainly restorative, while some cytokines further strengthen the trend of smoking-related changes.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/12/3715/htm “Effects of Smoking on Inflammatory-Related Cytokine Levels in Human Serum”


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Epigenetic effects of plasma concentrate

“We use data from a safety study (n = 18, mean age 74) to investigate whether human umbilical cord plasma concentrate (hereinafter Plasma Concentrate) injected weekly (1 ml intramuscular) into elderly human subjects over a 10-week period affects different biomarkers, including epigenetic age measures, standard clinical biomarkers of organ dysfunction, mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNA-CN), and leukocyte telomere length.

More than 20 clinical biomarkers were significantly and beneficially altered. Telomere length and mtDNA-CN were not significantly affected by treatment.

An increase in entropy means that the methylome becomes noisier. We found that entropy was significantly decreased after treatment. Decreased entropy may implicate rejuvenation of the epigenetic landscape after plasma concentrate treatments.

changes in methylation entropy

Treatment reduced DNA methylation-based GrimAge by an average of 0.82 years, suggesting a reduction in morbidity and mortality risk. By contrast, no significant results could be observed for epigenetic clocks that estimate chronological age.

Our study lends credence to the notion that there are youth-promoting factors in the secretome of umbilical cord plasma. This conclusion has also been reached by other researchers that have provided treatment with stem cells, which do not work by plasma dilution but primarily by providing humoral factors and changing the microenvironment of cells and tissues. While there may be youth-promoting microvesicles or humoral factors that are at work, we do not want to rule out the possibility that it is ‘young and undamaged’ albumin that leads to the improvements noted, especially in light of recent evidence for such a mechanism.

This first human epigenetic clock study of plasma concentrate treatments revealed age-reversal effects according to a well-established DNA methylation-based estimator of morbidity and mortality risk. Future placebo-controlled replication studies are warranted with a larger number of participants over a longer study period, which our laboratory has undertaken to pursue.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acel.13696 “Umbilical cord plasma concentrate has beneficial effects on DNA methylation GrimAge and human clinical biomarkers”


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Non-patentable boron benefits

To follow up Is boron important to health? I’ll highlight a 2022 review of boron intake:

“Boron is essential for activity of several metabolic enzymes, hormones, and micronutrients. It is important for growth and maintenance of bone, reduction in inflammatory biomarkers, and increasing levels of antioxidant enzymes.

The average person’s daily diet contains 1.5 to 3 milligrams of boron. Boron intakes of 1–3 mg/day have been shown to improve bone and brain health in adults when compared to intakes of 0.25–0.50 mg/day.

One week of 10 mg/d boron supplementation resulted in a 20% reduction in inflammatory biomarkers TNF-α, as well as significant reductions (nearly 50%) in plasma concentrations of hs-CRP and IL-6. Calcium fructoborate, a naturally occurring, plant-based boron-carbohydrate complex, had beneficial effects on osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms. A double-blind study in middle-aged patients with primary OA found that all groups except the placebo group saw a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers after 15 days of food supplementation with calcium fructoborate.

Dietary boron intake significantly improves brain function and cognitive functioning in humans. Electroencephalograms showed that boron pharmacological intervention after boron deficiency improved functioning in older men and women, such as less drowsiness and mental alertness, better psychomotor skills (for example, motor speed and dexterity), and better cognitive processing (e.g., attention and short-term memory). Boron compounds can help with both impaired recognition and spatial memory problems.

We discussed the role of boron-based diet in memory, boron and microbiome relation, boron as anti-inflammatory agents, and boron in neurodegenerative diseases. Boron reagents will play a significant role to improve dysbiosis.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/11/3402/htm “The Role of Microbiome in Brain Development and Neurodegenerative Diseases”


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If you lose mobility, you lose cognitive function

This 2022 human study used four epigenetic clocks to assess aging:

“This cohort study was a secondary analysis of 3 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) ancillary studies among 1813 women eligible to survive to age 90 years by end of study period. The study found that increased epigenetic age acceleration (EAA) as measured by 4 epigenetic clocks was associated with lower odds of survival to age 90 years with intact mobility; results were similar when including intact cognitive functioning.

This study benefited from a large, racially and ethnically diverse sample of women who were followed up to at least age 90 years with detailed longitudinal data on a host of lifestyle and health history factors. This study is generalizable to WHI women owing to use of IPW weights, and may be generalizable to a large range of women in the United States.

zoi220662t1_1658260078.05222

Among 1813 women, there were:

  • 464 women who survived to age 90 years with intact mobility and cognitive functioning;
  • 420 women who survived to age 90 years without intact mobility and cognitive functioning; and
  • 929 women who did not survive to age 90 years.

Only 29 women were reclassified from the healthy longevity group to surviving to age 90 years without intact mobility and cognitive functioning. Although it was of great interest to investigate the association between EAA and survival to age 90 years with intact cognitive function independently, this study population did not have sufficient numbers of women who experienced loss of cognitive function (without loss of mobility) to do so.”

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2794706 “Analysis of Epigenetic Age Acceleration and Healthy Longevity Among Older US Women”


Early humans who lost mobility in our African savanna ancestral environment during the Pleistocene Epoch (approximately 2.6M to 12K years ago) were prey. I highly doubt that immobile individuals successfully became our ancestors.

I downgraded this study because these researchers misguidedly soiled worthwhile findings with BMI and education level non-causal associations. They intentionally did this, as several of them were coauthors of the execrable Epigenome-wide meta-analysis of BMI in nine cohorts: examining the utility of epigenetic BMI in predicting metabolic health.

See Findings, or fun with numbers? and Does a societal mandate cause DNA methylation? for opposing research.


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Broccoli sprouts and your brain

A 2022 review of Nrf2 signaling hilariously avoided mentioning sulforaphane, although of ~4,000 sulforaphane published articles, two were cited. I’ll curate it anyway to highlight referenced brain effects.

“A good stability of NRF2 activity is crucial to maintain redox balance and therefore brain homeostasis. In this review, we have gathered recent data about the contribution of the NRF2 pathway in the healthy brain as well as during metabolic diseases, ageing, and ageing-related neurodegenerative diseases.

A functional NRF2 system is important to regulate both neuroinflammation, i.e., activation of microglia and astrocytes, and oxidative stress in the brain. NRF2 and NF-κB transcription factors regulate cellular responses to inflammation and oxidative stress in order to maintain brain homeostasis. Both pathways have been described to inhibit each other.

Nrf2 brain aging

Future challenges will be to establish novel therapies to:

  • Increase NRF2 activation in specific cell types and/or brain regions; and
  • Modulate NRF2 pathway in senescent cells.

Modulation of NRF2 signalling pathway by using specific food products [like unmentioned broccoli sprouts] and phytochemicals [like unmentioned sulforaphane], dietary supplements [like unmentioned Vitamin D3], drugs, and epigenetic modifiers, alone or in combination, will help to limit inflammatory diseases, ageing process, and subsequently ageing-related diseases.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/11/8/1426/htm “Normal and Pathological NRF2 Signalling in the Central Nervous System”


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The goddess of rainbows

Two 2022 papers, starting with a review of irisin:

“This article is an overview of irisin generation, secretion, and tissue distribution. Its targeting of tissues or organs for prevention and treatment of chronic diseases is systematically summarized, with discussion of underlying molecular mechanisms.

Irisin is an exercise-induced myokine expressed as a bioactive peptide in multiple tissues and organs. Exercise and cold exposure are major inducers for its secretion.

Mechanistic studies confirm that irisin is closely correlated with lipid metabolism, insulin resistance, inflammation, ROS, endocrine, neurotrophic factors, cell regeneration and repairing, and central nervous system regulation. Irisin decreases with age, and is closely associated with a wide range of aging-related diseases.

A number of studies in elderly humans and animal models have shown that exercise can promote the body’s circulation and increase irisin levels in some tissues and organs. Resistance, aerobic, or combined exercise seem to play a positive role. However, exercise could not change serum irisin in some reported studies.

irisin human studies

There are large individual differences in exercise training in the elderly population. Since the half-life of irisin in the body is less than 1 h, it is necessary to pay attention to the time of blood sampling after a single exercise intervention. Some factors that impede detection of irisin levels in vivo include the half-life of irisin protein, sampling time, different tissues, and different health statuses before and after intervention.

It is worth noting that high-intensity exercise shows higher irisin levels even with the same energy expenditure during exercise. Precision studies of irisin in elderly subjects following exercise intervention need to be further clarified.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163722001222 “Irisin, An Exercise-induced Bioactive Peptide Beneficial for Health Promotion During Aging Process” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Ning Chen for providing a copy.


A second paper was a human study too recent to be cited by the first paper. I’ll highlight its irisin findings:

“We investigated the complex relationship among DNAm based biomarkers of aging, including DNAmFitAge, a variety of physiological functioning variables, blood serum measures including cholesterol, irisin level, and redox balance, and the microbiome on 303 healthy individuals aged between 33 and 88 years with a diverse level of physical fitness. Regular exercise was associated with younger biological age, better memory, and more protective blood serum levels.

Our research intends to show that regular physical exercise is related to microbiota and methylation differences which are both beneficial to aging and measurable. Our research provides the first investigation between microbiome derived metabolic pathways and DNAm based aging biomarkers.

Irisin levels decrease with age (0.23 average decrease for every 1 year older). We found age-related decreases in irisin levels were attenuated by exercise training. The link between irisin to GrimAge Acceleration and FitAge Acceleration is a novel observation.

HDL is positively associated with irisin. HDL and irisin have complex roles in physiology, and the positive relationship we observe between physical exercise and HDL and irisin align with protective effects seen between HDL and irisin with glucose homeostasis.

This work further supports the biological importance of irisin to the aging process. It is possible our research motivates interventions to boost irisin, like through physical exercise, as possible anti-aging therapies.”

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.07.22.22277842v1 “DNA methylation clock DNAmFitAge shows regular exercise is associated with slower aging and systemic adaptation


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Variable aging measurements

Two papers on aging measurements, starting with a 2022 human study:

“We collected longitudinally across the adult age range a comprehensive list of phenotypes within four domains (body composition, energetics, homeostatic mechanisms and neurodegeneration / neuroplasticity) and functional outcomes. We integrated individual deviations from population trajectories into a global longitudinal phenotypic metric of aging.

blsa participant ages

We demonstrate that accelerated longitudinal phenotypic aging is associated with faster physical and cognitive decline, faster accumulation of multimorbidity, and shorter survival.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-022-00243-7 “Longitudinal phenotypic aging metrics in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging”


I disagree with this study’s methodology.

1. Although it acknowledged individual variability, nothing was done to positively adjust to those facts. What could have been done per A review of biological variability was:

“Obtain a measurement of variability that is independent of the mean to ensure to not confound changes in variability with shifts in mean.”

2. A usual research practice is to take at least three measurements, and use their average as representative. That wasn’t done here, maybe because of time and expense considerations?

3. An important measurement for physical function was the time to finish a 400 meter walk. I walk more than ten times that almost every day. I use the first 400 meters as a warmup period while getting to the beach to walk eastward and enjoy the predawn light and water animal activity. I concentrate on gait speed during the last third while walking westward on a straightaway bike path.

This study would measure my gait speed as a sometimes old person during the first 400 meters, rather than a gait speed that usually approaches a young person’s during the last 400 meters. Even if I tried to walk my fastest right out of the gate, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a decade or two difference by this study’s measurements between a morning walk’s first and last 400 meter gait speeds.

4. An important cognitive function measurement was the Digital Symbol Substitution Test, apparently taken during subjects’ fasted state? Sometimes after exercising, I’m okay cognitively when starting work in a fasted state at 6:30 a.m., and other times I’m tired.

Two days ago during the last hour of work 1:30-2:30 p.m., I did outstanding work, four hours after eating whole oats for breakfast, and after drinking two coffees and three teas. I took time to put together pieces of puzzles into proper contexts for management’s attention. My bosses weren’t too pleased with the story it told, but it is what it is.

5. Are measurements of how you start what matters? Or is it how you finish, as is common in competitive sports?

This study would measure my cognitive function as a sometimes old person, rather than performance that approaches a young person’s later in the workday. For both physical and cognitive function, my abilities to ramp up and come close to young people’s capabilities are features that I work on, not random, inconvenient measurement variability.

6. Blood measurements were downgraded as having “limited coverage of the four phenotypic domains.” These were taken to fit into specific paradigms and epigenetic clocks. They predictably failed to show causality, as acknowledged with:

“Our analysis showed strong associations between global longitudinal phenotypic score and changes in physical and cognitive function. We did not have sufficient observations to fully separate these two dimensions over time, which would have strengthened the assumption of causality.”

Nowhere in this study was it hinted that all measurements were downstream effects of unmeasured causes. A follow-on study could reanalyze these subjects’ blood samples, MRI, and other measurements for originating upstream factors of signaling pathways and cascades per Signaling pathways and aging and An environmental signaling paradigm of aging.


Reference 35 of this first study was a 2021 human and rodent study that was tossed in as a limitation with:

“We might not have all of the relevant phenotypic measures (for example, more detailed immune profiles) for all participants.”

Its findings included:

“From the blood immunome of 1,001 individuals aged 8–96 years, we developed a deep-learning method based on patterns of systemic age-related inflammation. The resulting inflammatory clock of aging (iAge) tracked with multimorbidity, immunosenescence, frailty and cardiovascular aging, and is also associated with exceptional longevity in centenarians.

Canonical markers of acute infection such as IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α were not major contributors to iAge, indicating that, except for IL-1β, infection-driven inflammatory markers of the acute inflammatory response do not contribute to age-related chronic inflammation.

We conducted a follow-up study in an independent cohort of 97 extremely healthy adults (aged 25–90 years) matched for cardiovascular risk factors (including conserved levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein), selected from a total of 151 recruited participants using strict selection criteria. In this healthy cohort, inflammation markers were measured using a 48-plex cytokine panel. Only 6 circulating immune proteins were significantly correlated with age, with CXCL9 again the largest contributor to age-related inflammation.

CXCL9 is a T-cell chemoattractant induced by IFN-γ and is mostly produced by neutrophils, macrophages and endothelial cells (ECs). We find that CXCL9 is mainly produced by aged endothelium and predicts subclinical levels of cardiovascular aging in nominally healthy individuals.

We did not find any significant correlation between known disease risk factors reported in the study (BMI, smoking, dyslipidemia) and levels of CXCL9 gene or protein expression. We hypothesize that one root cause of CXCL9 overproduction is cellular aging per se, which can trigger metabolic dysfunction.

As ECs but not cardiomyocytes expressed the CXCL9 receptor, CXCR3, we hypothesize that this chemokine acts both in a paracrine fashion (when it is produced by macrophages to attract T cells to the site of injury) and in an autocrine fashion (when it is produced by the endothelium) creating a positive feedback loop. In this model, increasing doses of CXCL9 and expression of its receptor in these cells leads to cumulative deterioration of endothelial function in aging.

IFN-γ did not increase in expression in our cellular aging RNA-seq experiment, suggesting that there are triggers of CXCL9 (other than IFN-γ) that play a role in cellular senescence in the endothelium that are currently unknown. However, in our 1KIP study, IFN-γ was in fact the second-most important negative contributor to iAge, which could be explained by the cell-priming effect of cytokines, where the effect of a first cytokine alters the response to a different one.

iAge derived from immunological cytokines gives us an insight into the salient cytokines that are related to aging and disease. A notable difference compared to other clocks is that iAge is clearly actionable as shown by our experiments in CXCL9 where we can reverse aging phenotypes. More practical approaches range from altering a person’s exposomes (lifestyle) and/or the use of interventions to target CXCL9 and other biomarkers described here.

Our immune metric for human health can identify within healthy older adults with no clinical or laboratory evidence of cardiovascular disease, those at risk for early cardiovascular aging. We demonstrate that CXCL9 is a master regulator of vascular function and cellular senescence, which indicates that therapies targeting CXCL9 could be used to prevent age-related deterioration of the vascular system and other physiological systems as well.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-021-00082-y “An inflammatory aging clock (iAge) based on deep learning tracks multimorbidity, immunosenescence, frailty and cardiovascular aging”


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Non-CpG methylation

Three 2022 papers on methylation epigenetic modifiers, starting with a human study focused on mitochondrial DNA non-CpG methylation involving nucleobases other than guanine (arginine, cytosine, or thymine):

“We collected brain tissue in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex from deceased individuals without (n = 39) and with (n = 14) drug use, and used whole-genome bisulfite sequencing to cover cytosine sites in the mitochondrial genome. Epigenetic clocks in illicit drug users, especially in ketamine users, were accelerated in both brain regions by comparison with nonusers.

Unlike the predominance of CpG over non-CpG methylation in the nuclear genome, the average CpG and non-CpG methylation levels in the mitochondrial genome were almost equal. The utility of non-CpG methylation was further illustrated by the three indices constructed in this study with non-CpG sites having better distinction between brain areas, age groups, and the presence or absence of drug use than indices consisting of CpG sites only. Results of previous studies on the mitochondrial genome that were solely based on CpG sites should be interpreted cautiously.

The epigenetic clock made up of age-related cytosine sites in mtDNA of the control group was consistently replicated in these two brain regions. One possibility for the correlation is the cycle theory that involves mitochondrial activity, mitochondrial DNA methylation, and alpha-ketoglutarate.

As mitochondrial activity fades with aging, mitochondria gradually lose the ability to eliminate methylation on cytosines through alpha-ketoglutarate. Further investigation of the underlying mechanisms is warranted.

To our knowledge, this is the first report that ketamine might change the mitochondrial epigenetic clock in human brain tissues. We believe this is the first report to elucidate comprehensively the importance of mitochondrial DNA methylation in human brain.”

https://clinicalepigeneticsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13148-022-01300-z “Mitochondrial DNA methylation profiling of the human prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens: correlations with aging and drug use”


A second rodent study focused on RNA methylation:

“We investigated the role of RNA N6-methyladenosine (m6A) in improved resilience against chronic restraint stress. A combination of molecular, behavioral, and in vivo recording data demonstrates exercise-mediated restoration of m6A in the mouse medial prefrontal cortex, whose activity is potentiated to exert anxiolytic effects. To provide molecular explanations, it is worth noting that epigenetic regulation, such as histone modification, microRNA, and DNA methylation all participate in mental and cognitive rehabilitation following exercise.

To generalize these rodent data to humans, we recruited a small group of patients with major depressive disorder with prominent anxiety disorders. Compared to age- and sex-matched healthy individuals, patients displayed decreased circulating methyl donor S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) levels. Serum SAM levels were found to be inversely correlated with the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, suggesting the potential value of SAM as a biomarker for depression or anxiety disorders.

Hepatic biosynthesis of methyl donors is necessary for exercise to improve brain RNA m6A to counteract environmental stress. The dependence on hepatic-brain axis suggests the ineffectiveness of exercise training on people with hepatic dysfunctions.

This novel liver-brain axis provides an explanation for brain network changes upon exercise training, and provides new insights into diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders. Exercise-induced anxiolysis might be potentiated by further replenishment of RNA methylation donors, providing a strategy of exercise plus diet supplement in preventing anxiety disorders.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/advs.202105731 “Physical Exercise Prevented Stress-Induced Anxiety via Improving Brain RNA Methylation”


A third paper was a review of mitochondrial-to-nuclear epigenetic regulation. I’ll highlight one mitochondrial metabolite, alpha-ketoglutarate (α-KG):

“Apart from established roles in bioenergetics and biosynthesis, mitochondria are signaling organelles that communicate their fitness to the nucleus, triggering transcriptional programs to adapt homeostasis stress that is essential for organismal health and aging. Emerging studies revealed that mitochondrial-to-nuclear communication via altered levels of mitochondrial metabolites or stress signals causes various epigenetic changes, facilitating efforts to maintain homeostasis and affect aging.

Metabolites generated by the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, the electron transport chain (ETC), or one-carbon cycle within mitochondria can act as substrates or cofactors to control epigenetic modification, especially histone acetylation and methylation and DNA methylation. α-KG produced in the TCA cycle serves as an essential cofactor for the chromatin-modifying Jumonji C (JmjC) domain-containing lysine demethylases (JMJDs) and ten-eleven translocation (TETs) DNA demethylases. Changes in α-KG levels are capable of driving nuclear gene expression by affecting DNA and histone methylation profiles.

1-s2.0-S0968000422000676-gr2_lrg

α-KG deficiency in progenitor stem cells increases with age. For example, the level of α-KG is reduced in follicle fluids of aged humans, and supplementation with α-KG preserves ovarian function in mice.

α-KG extends lifespan in Drosophila by activating AMPK signaling and inhibiting the mTOR pathway. Supplementing α-KG in the form of a calcium salt promoted a longer and healthier life associated with decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines in old mice.

A human study showed a nearly 8-year reversal in DNA methylation clock biological ages of 42 individuals taking an α-KG based formulation for 4–10 months. α-KG supplementation leads to both demethylation and hypermethylation of some CpG sites in the genome, suggesting that α-KG may have a broader effect on methylation-based aging, such as metabolic functions.

Outstanding questions:

  1. How is production of mitochondrial metabolites regulated both spatially and temporally to elicit epigenetic changes in response to mitochondrial dysfunction?
  2. What are specific epigenetic factors involved in mitochondrial-to-nuclear communications, and how do they cooperate with transcription factors in response to various external and internal stimuli?
  3. Do various mitochondrial metabolites act alone or in concert on the epigenome to regulate the aging process?
  4. Are some organs or tissues more at risk than others in maintaining mitochondrial-to-nuclear communication during aging?
  5. Can intervention of mitochondrial-to-nuclear communications mimic beneficial epigenetic changes to delay aging or alleviate age-onset diseases?”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0968000422000676 “Mitochondrial-to-nuclear communication in aging: an epigenetic perspective”


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AGEs in skin

Here are two 2022 human studies that non-invasively measured advanced glycation end products in skin, starting with one investigating AGEs, carotenoids, and glaucoma:

“This study is the first to simultaneously estimate AGE and skin carotenoid (SC) levels using fingertip sensors in patients with glaucoma.

Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor, and lowering IOP through medication or surgery is the main therapeutic option. Numerous risk factors, such as genetics, inflammation, ocular blood flow, and oxidative stress have been proposed by diverse nonclinical and clinical studies; however, the only reliable parameter used in clinical practice is IOP.

Most carotenoids, such as α- and β-carotenes, β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, have a maximal absorption wavelength of around 480 nm; therefore, the carotenoid score reflects the bulk of these carotenoid molecules. Intraocular levels of lutein, (3R,3′R)-zeaxanthin, and meso-(3R,3′S)-zeaxanthin, the only carotenoids present in macular pigment, and their antioxidant activity are difficult to estimate directly.

Although carotenoid levels reflect previous intake of vegetables, this lifestyle factor is also difficult to determine. Given that SC levels were mainly associated with vegetable intake for about 1 month, SC can be a good endpoint to assess roles of carotenoids in various diseases in clinical situations.

We found that low SC levels were associated with:

  • Male gender;
  • History of intraocular surgery;
  • Current smoking status;
  • Diabetes;
  • Low vegetable intake score; and
  • High levels of AGEs.

No significant association with glaucoma type was detected. However, AGE levels were higher in exfoliation glaucoma than primary open-angle glaucoma and controls.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/11/6/1138/htm “Fingertip-Measured Skin Carotenoids and Advanced Glycation End Product Levels in Glaucoma”


A second study focused on cardiovascular risk:

“AGEs cause arterial stiffness by two main mechanisms:

  • Interaction with arterial walls, which cause functional and structural changes that lead to an over production or cross-linking of collagen, and a decreased level of elastin; or
  • Interacting with receptors for AGEs, thereby activating different signaling pathways, which lead to enhanced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and vascular adhesion molecules responsible for atherosclerosis.

Our results show that increases in the level of AGEs in Korean patients with type 2 diabetes is associated with arterial pulse wave velocity and vein age, i.e., measures of arterial stiffness. Consequently, subject levels of AGEs were correlated with cardiovascular risk factors. AGE levels can be used as an indicator for CVDs in clinical diagnosis.”

https://www.cell.com/heliyon/fulltext/S2405-8440(22)00859-3 “Skin accumulation of advanced glycation end products and cardiovascular risk in Korean patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus”


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Gut microbiota therapy

This June 2022 review cited twenty 2022 papers for relationships between Parkinson’s disease and gut microbiota:

“Clinical diagnosis of PD is based on typical motor symptoms, and novel diagnostic biomarkers have been developed such as imaging markers, and α-synuclein fluid and tissue markers. Multimorbidity of non-motor disorders heighten the risk of adverse outcomes for patients with PD, which usually appear 20 years before onset of motor symptoms.

The gut microbiota is intimately connected to occurrence, development, and progression of PD, especially in early stages. A better understanding of the microbiota–gut–brain axis in PD can provide an opportunity to monitor an individual’s health by manipulating gut microbiota composition.

Several approaches like administration of probiotics, psychobiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, postbiotics, FMT, and dietary modifications have been tried to mitigate dysbiosis-induced ill effects and alleviate PD progression.

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Epidemiological studies have reported that diet affects (positively or negatively) onset of neurodegenerative disorders. Evidence suggests that diet composition’s effects on brain health is not due to diet-induced inflammatory response, but because of its effects on the gut microbiome.

Dysbiotic gut microbiota (including altered microbial metabolites) may play crucial roles in PD via various mechanisms, such as:

  • Increased intestinal permeability;
  • Aggravated intestinal inflammation and neuroinflammation;
  • Abnormal aggregation of α-synuclein fibrils;
  • Imbalanced oxidative stress; and
  • Decreased neurotransmitters production.

Future studies are essential to further elucidate cause-effect relationships between gut microbiota and PD, improved PD therapeutic and diagnostic options, disease progression tracking, and patient stratification capabilities to deliver personalized treatment and optimize clinical trial designs.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2022.937555/full “Gut Microbiota: A Novel Therapeutic Target for Parkinson’s Disease”


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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 #5: Blood

Two 2022 papers investigated taurine’s effects in blood, starting with a review of platelets:

“Taurine is the most abundant free amino acid in the human body, with a six times higher concentration in platelets than any other amino acid. It is highly beneficial for the organism, has many therapeutic actions, and is currently approved for heart failure treatment in Japan. Only the lack of large-scale phase 3 clinical trials restricts taurine use as a therapeutic agent in several other pathologies for treatment of which it has been shown to be effective (hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic diseases, e.g., diabetes mellitus, and others).

Because taurine was seen as a non-patentable nutrient, the pharmaceutical industry has not shown much interest in its research. Considering that taurine and its analogues display permissible side effects, along with the need of finding new, alternative antithrombotic drugs with minimal side effects and long-term action, the potential clinical relevance of this fascinating nutrient and its derivatives requires further consideration.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/11/3/666/htm “Taurine and Its Derivatives: Analysis of the Inhibitory Effect on Platelet Function and Their Antithrombotic Potential”

Figure 1 provided details of taurine and its derivatives’ effects on various processes involved in platelet activation and aggregation.


A second paper was a rodent study:

“To evaluate chronic effects of taurine on cholesterol levels, we analyzed mice fed a taurine-rich diet for 14–16 weeks. Long-term feeding of taurine lowered plasma cholesterol and bile acids without significantly changing other metabolic parameters, but hardly affected these levels in the liver.

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Taurine upregulates transcriptional activity of Cyp7a1 by suppressing FGF21 production in the liver. Bile acids are converted from blood cholesterol by CYP7A1, and more efficiently enter enterohepatic circulation via taurine conjugation.

This study shows that long-term feeding of taurine lowers both plasma cholesterol and bile acids, reinforcing that taurine effectively prevents hypercholesterolemia.”

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/23/3/1793/htm “Long-Term Dietary Taurine Lowers Plasma Levels of Cholesterol and Bile Acids”

A human equivalent of this male C57BL/6J mouse 16-week taurine intervention is roughly 17 years. That strain’s male maximum lifespan is around 800 days, and human maximum lifespan is currently 122.5 years.


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Taurine week #2: Bile acids

Two papers investigated taurine’s integration into bile acids, starting with a review:

“Bile acids (BAs) are produced from cholesterol in the liver and are termed primary BAs. Primary BAs are conjugated with glycine and taurine in the liver, and stored in the gallbladder. BAs are released from the gallbladder into the small intestine via food intake to facilitate digestion and absorption of lipids and lipophilic vitamins by forming micelles in the small intestine.

After deconjugation by the gut microbiome, primary BAs are converted into secondary BAs. Most BAs in the intestine are reabsorbed and transported to the liver, where both primary and secondary BAs are conjugated with glycine or taurine and rereleased into the intestine.

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Some BAs reabsorbed from the intestine spill into systemic circulation, where they bind to a variety of nuclear and cell-surface receptors in tissues. Some BAs are not reabsorbed and bind to receptors in the terminal ileum.

BAs can affect cell-surface and intracellular membranes, including those of mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum. BAs are also hormones or signaling molecules, and can regulate BA, glucose, and lipid metabolism in various tissues, including the liver, pancreas, and both brown and white adipose tissue. BAs also affect the immune system.

BAs can affect the nervous system. More than 20 BAs have been detected in the brain of humans and rodents. The brain communicates with the gut and gut microbiome through BAs.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/10/1/68/htm “Physiological Role of Bile Acids Modified by the Gut Microbiome”


Reference 56 was a human study:

“Centenarians (individuals aged 100 years and older) have a decreased susceptibility to ageing-associated illnesses, chronic inflammation, and infectious diseases. Centenarians have a distinct gut microbiome enriched in microorganisms that are capable of generating unique secondary bile acids.

We identified centenarian-specific gut microbiota signatures and defined bacterial species as well as genes and/or pathways that promote generation of isoLCA, 3-oxoLCA, 3-oxoalloLCA, and isoalloLCA. To our knowledge, isoalloLCA is one of the most potent antimicrobial agents that is selective against Gram-positive microorganisms, including multidrug-resistant pathogens, suggesting that it may contribute to maintenance of intestinal homeostasis by enhancing colonization-resistance mechanisms.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03832-5 “Novel bile acid biosynthetic pathways are enriched in the microbiome of centenarians” (not freely available)


A few more papers will be coming on taurine and bile acids. I haven’t seen one investigate both taurine and glycine treatments to aid bile acid in achieving therapeutic results.

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Betaine and diabetes

Three papers on betaine’s effects, starting with a 2022 review:

“Rodent studies provide evidence that betaine effectively limits many diabetes-related disturbances.

  • Betaine therapy improves glucose tolerance and insulin action, which is strongly associated with changes in insulin-sensitive tissues, such as skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and liver.
  • Betaine supplementation positively affects multiple genes, which expression is dysregulated in diabetes.
  • AMP-activated protein kinase is thought to play a central role in the mechanism underlying anti-diabetic betaine action.
  • Studies with animal models of type 2 diabetes have shown that betaine exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, and also alleviates endoplasmic reticulum stress.

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These changes contribute to improved insulin sensitivity and better blood glucose clearance. Results of animal studies encourage exploration of therapeutic betaine efficacy in humans with type 2 diabetes.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332222003353 “The anti-diabetic potential of betaine. Mechanisms of action in rodent models of type 2 diabetes”


Reference 31 was a 2022 human study:

“Few studies on humans have comprehensively evaluated intake composition of methyl-donor nutrients  choline, betaine, and folate in relation to visceral obesity (VOB)-related hepatic steatosis (HS), the hallmark of non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases.

  • Total choline intake was the most significant dietary determinant of HS in patients with VOB.
  • Combined high intake of choline and betaine, but not folate, was associated with an 81% reduction in VOB-related HS.
  • High betaine supplementation could substitute for choline and folate to normalize homocysteine levels under methyl donor methionine-restriction conditions.
  • Preformed betaine intake from whole-grain foods and vegetables can lower obesity-increased choline and folate requirements by sparing choline oxidation for betaine synthesis and folate for methyl donor conversion in one-carbon metabolism.

Our data suggest that combined dietary intake of choline and betaine reduces the VOB-related HS risk in a threshold-dependent manner.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/2/261/htm “Optimal Dietary Intake Composition of Choline and Betaine Is Associated with Minimized Visceral Obesity-Related Hepatic Steatosis in a Case-Control Study”

Increasing betaine intake to lower choline and folate requirements was similar to an idea in Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes? that:

“Such positive effects of taurine on glutathione 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.”


I came across the first paper by it citing a 2021 review:

“This review focuses on biological and beneficial effects of dietary betaine (trimethylglycine), a naturally occurring and crucial methyl donor that restores methionine homeostasis in cells. Betaine is endogenously synthesized through metabolism of choline, or exogenously consumed through dietary intake.

Human intervention studies showed no adverse effects with 4 g/day supplemental administration of betaine in healthy subjects. However, overweight subjects with metabolic syndrome showed a significant increase in total and LDL-cholesterol concentrations. These effects were not observed with 3 g/day of betaine administration.

Betaine exerts significant therapeutic and biological effects that are potentially beneficial for alleviating a diverse number of human diseases and conditions.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/10/6/456/htm “Beneficial Effects of Betaine: A Comprehensive Review”


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