Showing posts with label Autism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Autism. Show all posts

Sunday 16 June 2024

Taurine for subgroups of Autism? Plus, vitamin B5 and L Carnitine for KAT6A syndrome?


   A Red Bull Formula 1 racing car


Today’s post should be of wide interest because it concerns the potential benefit from the OTC supplement taurine. There is a section at the end answering a query about mutations in the KAT6A gene.

Taurine is an amino acid and it is found in abundance in both mother’s milk and formula milk.  It has long been used as a supplement by some people with autism. It is finally going to be the subject of a clinical trial in autism and not surprisingly that will be in China - nowadays home to much autism research.

Taurine is also a key ingredient in energy drinks like Red Bull.


In a study of children with autism a third had low levels of taurine. Since taurine has anti-oxidant activity, children with ASD with low taurine concentrations were then examined for abnormal mitochondrial function. That study suggests that taurine may be a valid biomarker in a subgroup of ASD.

Taurine has several potential benefits to those with autism and it is already used to treat a wide variety of other conditions, some of which are relevant to autism. One example is its use in Japan to improve mitochondrial function in a conditional called MELAS (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes).

The effects that are suggested to relate to some types of autism include:-


·        Activating GABAA receptors, in the short term

·        Down regulating GABAA receptors, after long term use

·        Enhancing the PTEN/mTOR/AKT pathway

·        Reverse autophagy impairment caused by microglial activation

·        Reduce NMDA mediated activation of calcium channels

·        Protective effect on mitochondria and upregulating Complex 1

·        Improving the quality of the gut microbiota


If you have a pet you may know that taurine is widely given to cats and dogs. All cat food has taurine added and some breeds of dog need supplementation.

Taurine is crucial for several bodily functions in pets, including: 

Heart Health: Taurine helps regulate heart rhythm and improves heart muscle function. It can help prevent a type of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in both cats and dogs.

Vision: Taurine plays a role in maintaining healthy vision and can prevent retinal degeneration, a serious eye disease.

Immune System Function: Taurine may help boost the immune system and fight off infections.


From China we have the following recent study showing a benefit in the BTBR model of autism:

Taurine Improved Autism-Like Behaviours and Defective Neurogenesis of the Hippocampus in BTBR Mice through the PTEN/mTOR/AKT Signalling Pathway

Effective treatment of patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is still absent so far. Taurine exhibits therapeutic effects towards the autism-like behaviour in ASD model animals. Here, we determined the mechanism of taurine effect on hippocampal neurogenesis in genetically inbred BTBR T+ tf/J (BTBR) mice, a proposed model of ASD. In this ASD mouse model, we explored the effect of oral taurine supplementation on ASD-like behaviours in an open field test, elevated plus maze, marble burying test, self-grooming test, and three-chamber test. The mice were divided into four groups of normal controls (WT) and models (BTBR), who did or did not receive 6-week taurine supplementation in water (WT, WT+ Taurine, BTBR, and BTBR+Taurine). Neurogenesis-related effects were determined by Ki67 immunofluorescence staining. Western blot analysis was performed to detect the expression of phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted from chromosome 10 (PTEN)/mTOR/AKT pathway-associated proteins. Our results showed that taurine improved the autism-like behaviour, increased the proliferation of hippocampal cells, promoted PTEN expression, and reduced phosphorylation of mTOR and AKT in hippocampal tissue of the BTBR mice. In conclusion, taurine reduced the autism-like behaviour in partially inherited autism model mice, which may be associa­ted with improving the defective neural precursor cell proliferation and enhancing the PTEN-associated pathway in hippocampal tissue.


A trial in humans with autism is scheduled in Guizhou, China. In this trial they seem to believe the benefit may come from modification to the gut microbiota.


Study on the Treatment of Taurine in Children With Autism

In the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), medication is only an adjunct, and the main treatment modalities are education and behavioral therapy. People with autism incur huge medical and educational costs, which puts a great financial burden on families. Taurine is one of the abundant amino acids in tissues and organs, and plays a variety of physiological and pharmacological functions in nervous, cardiovascular, renal, endocrine and immune systems. A large number of studies have shown that taurine can improve cognitive function impairment under various physiological or pathological conditions through a variety of mechanisms, taurine can increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria in the intestine, inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, and have a positive effect on intestinal homeostasis. This study intends to analyze the effect of taurine supplementation on ASD, and explore the possible mechanism by detecting intestinal symptoms, intestinal flora, markers of oxidative stress and clinical symptoms of ASD.

Taurine granules mixed with corn starch and white sugar, 0.4g in 1 bag, taken orally. One time dosage: 1 bag each time for 1-2 years old, 3 times a day, 1.5 bags each time for 3-5 years old, 3 times a day, 2 bags each time for 6-8 years old, 3 times a day, 2.5-3 bags each time for 9-13 years old, 3 to 4 bags each time for children and adults over 14 years old, 3 times a day. The use of taurine is strictly in accordance with the specifications of Chinese Pharmacopoeia. 


Roles of taurine in cognitive function of physiology, pathologies and toxication

Taurine is a key functional amino acid with many functions in the nervous system. The effects of taurine on cognitive function have aroused increasing attention. First, the fluctuations of taurine and its transporters are associated with cognitive impairments in physiology and pathology. This may help diagnose and treat cognitive impairment though mechanisms are not fully uncovered in existing studies. Then, taurine supplements in cognitive impairment of different physiologies, pathologies and toxicologies have been demonstrated to significantly improve and restore cognition in most cases. However, elevated taurine level in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by exogenous administration causes cognition retardations only in physiologically sensitive period between the perinatal to early postnatal period. In this review, taurine levels are summarized in different types of cognitive impairments. Subsequently, the effects of taurine supplements on cognitions in physiology, different pathologies and toxication of cognitive impairments (e.g. aging, Alzheimer' disease, streptozotocin (STZ)-induced brain damage, ischemia model, mental disorder, genetic diseases and cognitive injuries of pharmaceuticals and toxins) are analyzed. These data suggest that taurine can improve cognition function through multiple potential mechanisms (e.g. restoring functions of taurine transporters and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) A receptors subunit; mitigating neuroinflammation; up-regulating Nrf2 expression and antioxidant capacities; activating Akt/CREB/PGC1α pathway, and further enhancing mitochondria biogenesis, synaptic function and reducing oxidative stress; increasing neurogenesis and synaptic function by pERK; activating PKA pathway). However, more mechanisms still need explorations.


Effects and Mechanisms of Taurine as a Therapeutic Agent

Taurine as an inhibitory neuromodulator

Although ER stress assumes an important role in the cytoprotective actions of taurine in the central nervous system (CNS), another important mechanism affecting the CNS is the neuromodulatory activity of taurine. Toxicity in the CNS commonly occurs when an imbalance develops between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. GABA is one of the dominant inhibitory neurotransmitters, therefore, reductions in either the CNS levels of GABA or the activity of the GABA receptors can favor neuronal hyperexcitability. Taurine serves as a weak agonist of the GABAA, glycine and NMDA receptors Therefore, taurine can partially substitute for GABA by causing inhibition of neuronal excitability. However, the regulation of the GABAA receptor by taurine is complex. While acute taurine administration activates the GABAA receptor, chronic taurine feeding promotes the downregulation of the GABAA receptor  and the upregulation of glutamate decarboxylase, the rate-limiting step in GABA biosynthesis. Therefore, complex interactions within the GABAeric system, as well as in the glycine and NMDA receptors, largely define the actions of taurine in the CNS.

Pharmacological characterization of GABAA receptors in taurine-fed mice


Taurine is one of the most abundant free amino acids especially in excitable tissues, with wide physiological actions. Chronic supplementation of taurine in drinking water to mice increases brain excitability mainly through alterations in the inhibitory GABAergic system. These changes include elevated expression level of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) and increased levels of GABA. Additionally we reported that GABAA receptors were down regulated with chronic administration of taurine. Here, we investigated pharmacologically the functional significance of decreased / or change in subunit composition of the GABAA receptors by determining the threshold for picrotoxin-induced seizures. Picrotoxin, an antagonist of GABAA receptors that blocks the channels while in the open state, binds within the pore of the channel between the β2 and β3 subunits. These are the same subunits to which GABA and presumably taurine binds.


Two-month-old male FVB/NJ mice were subcutaneously injected with picrotoxin (5 mg kg-1) and observed for a) latency until seizures began, b) duration of seizures, and c) frequency of seizures. For taurine treatment, mice were either fed taurine in drinking water (0.05%) or injected (43 mg/kg) 15 min prior to picrotoxin injection. 


We found that taurine-fed mice are resistant to picrotoxin-induced seizures when compared to age-matched controls, as measured by increased latency to seizure, decreased occurrence of seizures and reduced mortality rate. In the picrotoxin-treated animals, latency and duration were significantly shorter than in taurine-treated animas. Injection of taurine 15 min before picrotoxin significantly delayed seizure onset, as did chronic administration of taurine in the diet. Further, taurine treatment significantly increased survival rates compared to the picrotoxin-treated mice. 


We suggest that the elevated threshold for picrotoxin-induced seizures in taurine-fed mice is due to the reduced binding sites available for picrotoxin binding due to the reduced expression of the beta subunits of the GABAA receptor. The delayed effects of picrotoxin after acute taurine injection may indicate that the two molecules are competing for the same binding site on the GABAA receptor. Thus, taurine-fed mice have a functional alteration in the GABAergic system. These include: increased GAD expression, increased GABA levels, and changes in subunit composition of the GABAA receptors. Such a finding is relevant in conditions where agonists of GABAA receptors, such as anesthetics, are administered.


Taurine as used in Japan to treat MELAS (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes)

Taurine powder 98% "Taisho" [Prevention of stroke-like episodes of MELAS]

Effects of this medicine

This medicine improves mitochondrial dysfunction related to cell energy production etc., and suppresses stroke-like episodes.
It is usually used for prevention of stroke-like episodes of MELAS (mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like episodes).

·         Your dosing schedule prescribed by your doctor is ((        to be written by a healthcare professional))

·         In general, take as following dose according to your weight, 3 times a day after meals. If you weigh less than 15 kg, take 1.02 g (1 g of the active ingredient) at a time. If your weight ranges 15 kg to less than 25 kg, take 2.04 g (2 g) at a time. If your weight ranges 25 kg to less than 40 kg, take 3.06 g (3 g) at a time. If you weigh 40 kg and more, take 4.08 g (4 g) at a time. Strictly follow the instructions.

·         If you miss a dose, take the missed a dose as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed a dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. You should never take two doses at one time.

·         If you accidentally take more than your prescribed dose, consult with your doctor or pharmacist.

·         Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor instructs you to do so.


On the Potential Therapeutic Roles of Taurine in Autism Spectrum Disorder


Contemporary research has found that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit aberrant immunological function, with a shift toward increased cytokine production and unusual cell function. Microglia and astroglia were found to be significantly activated in immuno-cytochemical studies, and cytokine analysis revealed that the macrophage chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), and transforming growth factor β-1 (TGFB-1), all generated in the neuroglia, constituted the most predominant cytokines in the brain. Taurine (2-aminoethanesulfonic acid) is a promising therapeutic molecule able to increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes and ATPase, which may be protective against aluminum-induced neurotoxicity. It can also stimulate neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and reprogramming of proinflammatory M1 macrophage polarization by decreasing mitophagy (mitochondrial autophagy) and raising the expression of the markers of the anti-inflammatory and pro-healing M2 macrophages, such as macrophage mannose receptor (MMR, CD206) and interleukin 10 (IL-10), while lowering the expression of the M1 inflammatory factor genes. Taurine also induces autophagy, which is a mechanism that is impaired in microglia cells and is critically associated with the pathophysiology of ASD. We hypothesize here that taurine could reprogram the metabolism of M1 macrophages that are overstimulated in the nervous system of people suffering from ASD, thereby decreasing the neuroinflammatory process characterized by autophagy impairment (due to excessive microglia activation), neuronal death, and improving cognitive functions. Therefore, we suggest that taurine can serve as an important lead for the development of novel drugs for ASD treatment.


Taurine as a potential therapeutic agent interacting with multiple signaling pathways implicated in autism spectrum disorder (ASD): An in-silico analysis


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a complex sequelae of neurodevelopmental disorders which manifest in the form of communication and social deficits. Currently, only two agents, namely risperidone and aripiprazole have been approved for the treatment of ASD, and there is a dearth of more drugs for the disorder. The exact pathophysiology of autism is not understood clearly, but research has implicated multiple pathways at different points in the neuronal circuitry, suggesting their role in ASD. Among these, the role played by neuroinflammatory cascades like the NF-KB and Nrf2 pathways, and the excitotoxic glutamatergic system, are said to have a bearing on the development of ASD. Similarly, the GPR40 receptor, present in both the gut and the blood brain barrier, has also been said to be involved in the disorder. Consequently, molecules which can act by interacting with one or multiple of these targets might have a potential in the therapy of the disorder, and for this reason, this study was designed to assess the binding affinity of taurine, a naturally-occurring amino acid, with these target molecules. The same was scored against these targets using in-silico docking studies, with Risperidone and Aripiprazole being used as standard comparators. Encouraging docking scores were obtained for taurine across all the selected targets, indicating promising target interaction. But the affinity for targets actually varied in the order NRF-KEAP > NF-κB > NMDA > Calcium channel > GPR 40. Given the potential implication of these targets in the pathogenesis of ASD, the drug might show promising results in the therapy of the disorder if subjected to further evaluations.


Is Taurine a Biomarker in Autistic Spectrum Disorder?

Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid which is not incorporated into protein. However, taurine has various critical physiological functions including development of the eye and brain, reproduction, osmoregulation, and immune functions including anti-inflammatory as well as anti-oxidant activity. The causes of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) are not clear but a high heritability implicates an important role for genetic factors. Reports also implicate oxidative stress and inflammation in the etiology of ASD. Thus, taurine, a well-known antioxidant and regulator of inflammation, was investigated here using the sera from both girls and boys with ASD as well as their siblings and parents. Previous reports regarding taurine serum concentrations in ASD from various laboratories have been controversial. To address the potential role of taurine in ASD, we collected sera from 66 children with ASD (males: 45; females: 21, age 1.5-11.5 years, average age 5.2 ± 1.6) as well as their unaffected siblings (brothers: 24; sisters: 32, age 1.5-17 years, average age 7.0 ± 2.0) as controls of the children with ASD along with parents (fathers: 49; mothers: 54, age 28-45 years). The sera from normal adult controls (males: 47; females: 51, age 28-48 years) were used as controls for the parents. Taurine concentrations in all sera samples were measured using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) using a phenylisothiocyanate labeling technique. Taurine concentrations from female and male children with ASD were 123.8 ± 15.2 and 145.8 ± 8.1 μM, respectively, and those from their unaffected brothers and sisters were 142.6 ± 10.4 and 150.8 ± 8.4 μM, respectively. There was no significant difference in taurine concentration between autistic children and their unaffected siblings. Taurine concentrations in children with ASD were also not significantly different from their parents (mothers: 139.6 ± 7.7 μM, fathers: 147.4 ± 7.5 μM). No significant difference was observed between adult controls and parents of ASD children (control females: 164.8 ± 4.8 μM, control males: 163.0 ± 7.0 μM). However, 21 out of 66 children with ASD had low taurine concentrations (<106 μM). Since taurine has anti-oxidant activity, children with ASD with low taurine concentrations will be examined for abnormal mitochondrial function. Our data imply that taurine may be a valid biomarker in a subgroup of ASD.


The Role of Taurine in Mitochondria Health: More Than Just an Antioxidant

Taurine is a naturally occurring sulfur-containing amino acid that is found abundantly in excitatory tissues, such as the heart, brain, retina and skeletal muscles. Taurine was first isolated in the 1800s, but not much was known about this molecule until the 1990s. In 1985, taurine was first approved as the treatment among heart failure patients in Japan. Accumulating studies have shown that taurine supplementation also protects against pathologies associated with mitochondrial defects, such as aging, mitochondrial diseases, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders. In this review, we will provide a general overview on the mitochondria biology and the consequence of mitochondrial defects in pathologies. Then, we will discuss the antioxidant action of taurine, particularly in relation to the maintenance of mitochondria function. We will also describe several reported studies on the current use of taurine supplementation in several mitochondria-associated pathologies in humans.


Taurine is known not as a radical scavenger. Several potential mechanisms by which taurine exerts its antioxidant activity in maintaining mitochondria health include: taurine conjugates with uridine on mitochondrial tRNA to form a 5-taurinomethyluridine for proper synthesis of mitochondrial proteins (mechanism 1), which regulates the stability and functionality of respiratory chain complexes; taurine reduces superoxide generation by enhancing the activity of intracellular antioxidants (mechanism 2); taurine prevents calcium overload and prevents reduction in energy production and the collapse of mitochondrial membrane potential (mechanism 3); taurine directly scavenges HOCl to form N-chlorotaurine in inhibiting a pro-inflammatory response (mechanism 4); and taurine inhibits mitochondria-mediated apoptosis by preventing caspase activation or by restoring the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio and preventing Bax translocation to the mitochondria to promote apoptosis (mechanism 5).

Taurine Forms a Complex with Mitochondrial tRNA

Taurine Reduces Superoxide Generation in the Mitochondria

Taurine Regulates Intracellular Calcium Homeostasis

Taurine Inhibits Mitochondria-Mediated Apoptosis


Taurine therapy, therefore, could potentially improve mitochondrial health, particularly in mitochondria-targeted pathologies, such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, mitochondrial diseases and neurological disorders. Whether the protective mechanism on mitochondria primarily relies on the taurine modification of mitochondrial tRNA requires further investigation.


Taurine and the gut microbiota 

We now regularly in the research see that you can make changes in the gut microbiota to treat medical conditions. I think the most interesting was the discovery that the ketogenic diet, used for a century to treat epilepsy, actually works via the high fat diet changing the bacteria that live in your gut; it has nothing at all to do with ketones. UCLA are developing a bacteria product that will mimic the effect of this diet.

We should not be surprised to see that one mode of action put forward for Taurine is changes it makes in the gut microbiota.  It is this very mechanism that the Chinese researchers think is relevant to its benefit in autism.

The paper below is not about autism, but it is about Taurine’s effect on the gut microbiota.

Effects of Taurine on Gut Microbiota Homeostasis: An Evaluation Based on Two Models of Gut Dysbiosis

Taurine, an abundant free amino acid, plays multiple roles in the body, including bile acid conjugation, osmoregulation, oxidative stress, and inflammation prevention. Although the relationship between taurine and the gut has been briefly described, the effects of taurine on the reconstitution of intestinal flora homeostasis under conditions of gut dysbiosis and underlying mechanisms remain unclear. This study examined the effects of taurine on the intestinal flora and homeostasis of healthy mice and mice with dysbiosis caused by antibiotic treatment and pathogenic bacterial infections. The results showed that taurine supplementation could significantly regulate intestinal microflora, alter fecal bile acid composition, reverse the decrease in Lactobacillus abundance, boost intestinal immunity in response to antibiotic exposure, resist colonization by Citrobacter rodentium, and enhance the diversity of flora during infection. Our results indicate that taurine has the potential to shape the gut microbiota of mice and positively affect the restoration of intestinal homeostasis. Thus, taurine can be utilized as a targeted regulator to re-establish a normal microenvironment and to treat or prevent gut dysbiosis.



Your body can synthesize taurine from other amino acids, particularly cysteine, with the help of vitamin B6. In most cases, this internal production is enough to meet your daily needs for basic bodily functions.

Infants and some adults may need taurine added to their diet.

Based on the small study in humans, about a third of children with autism have low levels of taurine in their blood.

Is extra taurine going to provide a benefit to the other two thirds?

Taurine looks easy to trial. It is normally taken three times a day after a meal. Each dose would be 0.4g to 4g depending on weight and what the purpose was. The 2 year olds in the Chinese autism trial will be taking 0.4g three times a day. Japanese adults with mitochondrial disease (MELAS) are taking 4g three times a day.

One can oF Red Bull contains 1g of taurine. Most supplements contain 0.5 to 1g. This is a similar dose to what is given to pet cats and dogs. Just like Red Bull contains B vitamins, so do the taurine products for cats and dogs. 

Some of the effects will be immediate, while others will take time to show effect. For example there can potentially be an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis. I expect any changes in gut bacteria would also take a long time to get established.

The effect via GABA on increasing brain excitability is an interesting one for people taking bumetanide for autism, where the GABA developmental switch did not take place. Based on the research you could argue that it will be beneficial or indeed harmful.

What I can say is that in Monty, aged 20 with ASD and taking bumetanide for 12 years, he responded very well on the rare occasions he drank Red Bull.



Vitamin B5 and L carnitine for KATA6A Syndrome

I was asked about KATA6A syndrome recently.  This syndrome is researched by Dr Kelley, the same doctor who coined the term Autism secondary to mitochondrial dysfunction (AMD).

KAT6A Research and Treatment An Update by Richard I Kelley , MD, PHD

Some kids with KATA6A, like Peter below, respond very well to Dr Kelley’s mito cocktail.


Peter’s Experience with a Mitochondrial Cocktail


Here’s my experience with the mitochondrial cocktail:

– At 4 weeks after the start of the cocktail, Peter became potty-trained during the day without any training. He pulled his pull up off, refused to put it back on.

-At 2 months, Peter started riding his bike with no training wheels and playing soccer. He became able to kick the ball and run after it till he scores.

-At 2.5 months, he started skiing independently. I used to try to teach how to ski since he was 3yo. I used to spend hours and hours picking him up off the snow with no result. I tried different kind of reinforcers (food,..) with no result. After the cocktail, he just went down the hill by himself, He can ski independently now and knows how to make turns.

-At 2-3 months, I started noticing an increased strength in playing ice hockey and street hockey with a better understanding of the game. His typing ability improved too, he used to have severe apraxia while typing (type the letter next to the letter he wants to type…).

-At 3-4 months, Peter’s fingers on the piano became stronger, he became able to play harder songs with less training and less frustration. I also noticed an increase in “common sense” like for example putting his backpack in the car instead of throwing it on the floor next to the car and riding the car without his backpack. Another example, when we go to the public library, he knows by himself that he has to go to the children section, and walks independently without showing him directions to the play area inside the children section. In the past, he used to grab books the time he enters the library, throw a tantrum on the floor. The most important milestone is that Peter started to say few words that I can understand.

-At 11 months, Peter became potty-trained at night. His speech is slowly getting clearer. His fine and gross motor skills are still getting better.


Some readers of this blog have been in touch with Dr Kelley and he does give very thorough replies.

Generally speaking, the therapies for mitochondrial diseases/dysfunctions seem to be about avoiding it getting worse, rather than making dramatic improvements. In the case of Peter (above) the effects do look dramatic. There are many other ideas in the research that do not seem to have been translated into therapy.

A study from two years ago does suggest that vitamin B5 and L carnitine should be trialed. 

Pantothenate and L-Carnitine Supplementation Improves Pathological Alterations in Cellular Models of KAT6A Syndrome

Mutations in several genes involved in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression have been considered risk alterations to different intellectual disability (ID) syndromes associated with features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Among them are the pathogenic variants of the lysine-acetyltransferase 6A (KAT6A) gene, which causes KAT6A syndrome. The KAT6A enzyme participates in a wide range of critical cellular functions, such as chromatin remodeling, gene expression, protein synthesis, cell metabolism, and replication. In this manuscript, we examined the pathophysiological alterations in fibroblasts derived from three patients harboring KAT6A mutations. We addressed survival in a stress medium, histone acetylation, protein expression patterns, and transcriptome analysis, as well as cell bioenergetics. In addition, we evaluated the therapeutic effectiveness of epigenetic modulators and mitochondrial boosting agents, such as pantothenate and L-carnitine, in correcting the mutant phenotype. Pantothenate and L-carnitine treatment increased histone acetylation and partially corrected protein and transcriptomic expression patterns in mutant KAT6A cells. Furthermore, the cell bioenergetics of mutant cells was significantly improved. Our results suggest that pantothenate and L-carnitine can significantly improve the mutant phenotype in cellular models of KAT6A syndrome.

Next, we analyzed the expression changes of specific genes in treated and untreated conditions. We found that the expression levels of downregulated genes in the mutant KAT6A fibroblasts, such as KAT6ASIRT1SIRT3NAMPT1Mt-ND6NDUFA9PANK2mtACPPDH (E1 subunit α2), KGDH (E2 subunit), SOD1SOD2, and GPX4 were significantly restored after pantothenate and L-carnitine treatment. The proteins encoded by these genes are involved in acetylation-deacetylation pathways, CoA metabolism, mitochondria, and antioxidant enzymes, all of which are critical for intracellular processes in embryonic and childhood development.


KAT6A acts as a master regulator by fine-tuning gene expression through chromatin modifications, so we should expect it to have wide ranging effects. All the closest interactions are will other genes that modify gene expression.

A useful site is genecards:


KAT6A mutations are indeed linked to microcephaly, a condition characterized by a smaller than average head circumference.

Most autism is associated with hyperactive pro-growth signalling pathways; only a minority is associated with the opposite and this would fit with microcephaly, which is typical in KAT6A.

Microcephaly is a very common feature of Rett syndrome.

Among the features of KAT6A syndrome there will be overlaps with other syndromes.

Dr Kelley analyses amino acids looking for mitochondrial dysfunction. He has found this present in KAT6A, but this is only one treatable feature of the syndrome.

Targeting growth signaling pathways might well be worth pursuing. You would be looking a what works in other people with smaller heads.

I wrote quite a lot about IGF-1 previously in this blog.

It would be highly plausible that these related therapies might be of benefit. The easy one to try is cGPMax, because it is sold OTC. IGF-1 itself might be beneficial, you would have to find a helpful endocrinologist to trial it.

All the therapies of idiopathic autism could be trialed.

If the child has a paradoxical reaction to any benzodiazepine drug, then you know that bumetanide is likely to be beneficial.

Since mitochondrial function is impaired in KAT6A, taurine is another thing to trial.

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Immunotherapy from the desert


Today’s post revisits the idea of using immunotherapies to treat autism.

Some readers of this blog are already doing this and a significant percentage of those are using IVIG.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is a pooled antibody, and a biological agent used to manage various immunodeficiency states and a plethora of other conditions, including autoimmune, infectious, and inflammatory states.

IVIG is not a precision therapy, it is more a case of when all else fails try IVIG.

In the United States it seems that many insurance companies will cover the cost of long-term IVIG therapy. In other countries the cost greatly limits the use of this therapy.

An interesting observation is that IVIG products can vary significantly in their potency, depending on where they are made. Several readers of this blog have noted this.

I attended the Autism Challenges and Solutions conference recently in Abu Dhabi. I did have a chat with Laila Alayadhi, a researcher and clinician from Saudi Arabia who has been publishing papers about autoimmunity in ASD for decades. She also published a series of studies that examined the potential of camel milk as a therapy. She examined both changes in biological markers of oxidative stress and inflammation as well as measures of autism severity.

Her most recent study is here:-


Comparative Study on the Ameliorating Effects of Camel Milkas a Dairy Product on Inflammatory Response in Autism Spectrum Disorders

The link between nutrition and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as a neurodevelopmental disorder exhibiting impaired social interaction, repetitive behavior, and poor communication skills, has provided a hot point of research that might help use nutritional intervention strategies for managing ASD symptoms. This study examined the possible therapeutic potency of raw and boiled camel milk in reducing neuroinflammation in relation to behavioral characteristics. A blinded study was conducted on 64 children with autism (aged 2–12 years). Group I (n = 23) consisted of children who received raw camel milk; Group II (n = 27) comprised children who received boiled camel milk; and Group III (n = 14) comprised children who received cow milk as a placebo. Changes in plasma tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) as pro-inflammatory cytokine in relation to behavioral characteristics evaluated using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms before and after 2 weeks of raw and boiled camel milk therapy. Significantly lower plasma levels of TNF-α were recorded after 2 weeks of camel milk consumption, accompanied by insignificant changes in CARS and significant improvements in SRS and GI symptoms. Alternatively, Group III demonstrated an insignificant TNF-α increase without changes in CARS, SRS, and GI symptoms. This study demonstrated the positive effects of both raw and boiled camel milk in reducing neuroinflammation in patients with ASD. The improvements in the SRS scores and GI symptoms are encouraging. Further trials exploring the potential benefits of camel milk consumption in patients with ASD are highly recommended.



Apparently camel milk tastes just fine, although Dr Alayadhi told us she had never tried it prior to her research. She has shown than both pasteurized and raw milk are equally effective. I did ask her about other types of milk like goat’s milk and she said they had tried other milks and that only camel milk has shown the immunomodulatory effect.  When asked how much you need to drink, the answer was three glasses a day.

The Dentist

I did chat to another Saudi professor, a pediatric dentist, who gave a presentation about treating children with ASD.  Having had some pretty bad experiences with getting dental treatment and then overcoming them, I did feel I had something in common with Ebtissam Murshid.  I did catch up with her later and shared details of the D-Termined program created by US dentist David Tesini. It is a video training program for dentists how to treat kids with autism. I have written about it previously in this blog. Tesini very much tries to make the visit to the dentist fun, with lots of distractions in his treatment room. Murshid purposefully has blank white walls, believing that autistic kids get upset by bright colors and patterns. Hopefully she watches Tesini’s videos.

Murshid has published a book to help parents prepare their children for their trip to the dentist and, like Tesini, had made a small trial to show that her method is effective.

Some dentists are naturally good at treating the most difficult kids, but most are not.  It is impossible to predict.

A really good dentist needs neither restraint, like a papoose board, or sedation. If general anesthetic is needed, then something is not being done right. Kids with severe autism can be treated with local anesthetic just like other kids, they just need to go through a familiarization training like Tesini/Murshid use.


Back to immunotherapy

I did have many conversations with Carmello Rizzo who is an Italian doctor interested in both diet and autoimmunity to treat autism. He is a feature at many autism conferences and is a great speaker. He was telling me about Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD), an overlooked way to treat allergy care.

EPD was invented in the 1960s by a British immunologist Dr Len McEwen, at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. EPD is approved in the United Kingdom for the treatment of hay fever, food allergy and intolerance and environmental allergies.

It is an unlicensed product (i.e. not a drug), it is available only on a “named patient” basis.

EPD is not the same as allergy shots.

Allergy shots, also known as allergy immunotherapy, are injections used to treat allergies over a long period of time. They work by gradually desensitizing your body to the allergens that trigger your allergy symptoms.

Allergy shots typically involve two phases, buildup and maintenance.

It is an escalating dose immunotherapy, when you gradually increase the exposure level of the identified allergen.

The buildup phase lasts for 3 to 6 months. You receive shots 1 to 3 times a week. The doctor will gradually increase the amount of allergen in each shot to help your body build tolerance.

In the maintenance phase you need shots less frequently, usually about once a month. This phase can continue for 3 to 5 years or even longer depending on your progress.

I was never interested in allergy shots because there are so many injections needed.

I found EPD of interest because you take just two shots a year and the effect may potentially control the allergy after 2 or 3 years.

EPD is not expensive and I suppose that is why nobody wanted to invested the tens of millions of dollars to get approval by the FDA. It remains approved for use in the UK, which is ultra conservative when it comes to medicines.

Carmello Rizzo is offering EPD in Italy and elsewhere.


Gene therapy for autism?

I did go to a presentation with an interesting title:

Developing effective therapeutics for Autism Spectrum Disorder

It was not really what I was expecting. It was a young MIT researcher talking about the potential to develop gene therapies to replace mutated genes with a new ones. They are doing this in a model of autism caused by a mutated copy of the SHANK3 gene.

I called him Dr Viral Vector and did have a chat with him. The most interesting thing about his technology is that not only can he target a specific type of cell, but he can target a specific part of the brain, or indeed any part of the body.

At the moment they inject a virus carrying the new gene directly into the brain. That is not going to go down so well with human subjects. The next stage is to try injecting the virus into a vein.

I did talk about the two gene therapies for Rett syndrome now in human trials in my presentation. The ultimate problem is the likely $3 million cost. 

You can use gene therapy as an immunotherapy. 



At the conference I was asked about a gene called DCLRE1C, it encodes the DCLRE1C protein, also known as Artemis.


Artémis (Diane), the huntress. Roman copy of a Greek statue, 2nd century. Galleria dei Candelabri

Source: By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


The Artemis protein is named after the Greek goddess Artemis, who was associated with the hunt, wilderness, wild animals, childbirth, and protection. This connection likely comes from the crucial role Artemis plays in DNA repair, which is essential for maintaining the integrity of the genetic material, like a protector safeguarding the building blocks of life.

Complete loss of function in DCLRE1C typically causes severe combined immunodeficiency. This is called Artemis-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (ART-SCID).

Fortunately many possible mutations only partially impair the function of the DCLRE1C gene. They can lead to a spectrum of conditions, including atypical SCID, Omenn syndrome, Hyper IgM syndrome, and even just antibody deficiency. These conditions may have milder symptoms compared to classic SCID.

IVIG is a beneficial therapy for immunodeficiency; but is very expensive and not curative.

Humans all have 2 copies of the DCLRE1C and it is theoretically possible to increase expression of the good copy. But that is another story.


A gene therapy already exists for full-on ART-SCID.

Lentiviral Gene Therapy for Artemis-Deficient SCID

Why not use it in less severe cases?

The problem is going to be money, both for a lifetime on IVIG or a “hopefully” one-off gene therapy.

One lady in the audience of my talk had herself taken an expensive gene therapy and was not impressed.


Other interesting presentations

Pierre Drapeau from McGill University spoke about trying to repurpose a cheap old drug, called Pimozide, to treat motor neuron disease /ALS.  This was interesting because the process is similar to repurposing a drug for autism.

Pimozide is an old antipsychotic drug and it seems to work in ALS through its effect on a type of calcium channel called the T-type. Yes, just as in much autism, calcium channels are misbehaving.

The drawback of Pimozide is that it also blocks dopamine receptors in the brain, which is good if you have Tourette’s, but if you have ALS you then get symptoms of Parkinson’s as a side effect.

The solution is to tinker with the molecule and find a version (an analog) that will do the business with the T channels without causing tremors.  It looks like, via trial and error, this is nearly solved.

The whole process has already been going on for many years, it will take many more.

Life expectancy with ALS is only 2-5 years and they struggle to find test subjects in Canada. It looks like they may do trials in China.


An eye opener

A presentation with a very hard to digest title was also an eye opener. You can take a picture of the cornea in your eye and accurately diagnose all kinds of disorders. They started with peripheral neuropathy in diabetics and most recently moved on to people with autism. Using artificial intelligence (AI) they can now make a diagnosis just based on the nerve loss they observe in the cornea. They also can potentially measure the effect of therapies by the regeneration of those nerve fibers.  This is really clever. When Rayaz Malik started down this path, all the neurologists thought he was mad. Many years later and corneal confocal microscopy is widely used around the world, but not yet for autism diagnosis.

Antonio Persico is a well known autism clinician, he appeared virtually. He was mainly talking about antipsychotics. I had expected rather more. 



Immunotherapy addresses one of the four problem areas in autism. There cannot be a one size fits all approach, but you can certainly try camel milk. Addressing food allergy and intolerance is relatively straightforward and you do not need any fancy expensive genetic testing, as Carmello Rizzo pointed out.

There are people for whom genetic testing and/or a spinal tap opens the door to a precise diagnosis and hopefully treatment. That proved to be an unexpected controversial issue in my presentation.

My talk at the conference was all about using personalized medicine to treat autism. The organizer of the event reads this blog and knows that I am rather an outsider, since I am more in treating autism than just researching it.

I had a two and a half hour time slot and I made sure to use it all. 

Advances in Personalized Medicine to Treat Autism

I should mention that I also had some long conversations with Paul Shattock, who pretty much founded the gluten and casein free diet years ago, back at the University of Sunderland. If you are interested in the history of autism, he is a great person to talk to. He is nearly 80 years old, but still has a sharp sense of humour. He has stumbled into more than his fair share of controversies. In Abu Dhabi his opinions and observations were widely shared by other speakers. One younger American speaker thought his views were dangerous; had he taken the time to talk to Paul, he would have found them pretty well thought out. I did ask Paul what has happened to his old friend Andew Wakefield – apparently making another film.