Showing posts with label Bumetanide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bumetanide. Show all posts

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Treating Rett syndrome, some autism and some dementia via TrkA, TrkB, BDNF, IGF-1, NGF and NDPIH. And logically why Bumetanide really should work in Rett

Source: Rett Syndrome: Crossing the Threshold to Clinical Translation


Today’s post is on the one hand very specific to Rett syndrome, but much is applicable to broader autism and other single gene autisms.

Today’s post did start out with the research showing Bumetanide effective in the mouse model of Rett syndrome. This ended up with figuring out why this should have been obvious based on what we already know about growth factors that are disturbed in autism and very much so in Rett.

We even know from a published human case studies that Bumetanide can benefit those with Fragile X and indeed Down syndrome, but the world takes little notice.

If Bumetanide benefits human Rett syndrome would anyone take any notice?  They really should.

To readers of this blog who have a child with Rett, the results really are important.  You can even potentially link the problem symptoms found in Rett to the biology and see how you can potentially treat multiple symptoms with the same drug.

One feature of Rett is breathing disturbances, which typically consist of alternating periods of hyperventilation and hypoventilation.

Our reader Daniel sent me a link to paper that suggest an old OTC cough medicine could be used to treat the breathing issues.

The antitussive cloperastine improves breathing abnormalities in a Rett Syndrome mouse model by blocking presynaptic GIRK channels and enhancing GABA release

Rett Syndrome (RTT) is an X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder caused mainly by mutations in the MECP2 gene. One of the major RTT features is breathing dysfunction characterized by periodic hypo- and hyperventilation. The breathing disorders are associated with increased brainstem neuronal excitability, which can be alleviated with antagonistic agents.

Since neuronal hypoexcitability occurs in the forebrain of RTT models, it is necessary to find pharmacological agents with a relative preference to brainstem neurons. Here we show evidence for the improvement of breathing disorders of Mecp2-null mice with the brainstem-acting drug cloperastine (CPS) and its likely neuronal targets. CPS is an over-the-counter cough medicine that has an inhibitory effect on brainstem neuronal networks. In Mecp2-null mice, CPS (30 mg/kg, i.p.) decreased the occurrence of apneas/h and breath frequency variation. GIRK currents expressed in HEK cells were inhibited by CPS with IC50 1 μM. Whole-cell patch clamp recordings in locus coeruleus (LC) and dorsal tegmental nucleus (DTN) neurons revealed an overall inhibitory effect of CPS (10 μM) on neuronal firing activity. Such an effect was reversed by the GABAA receptor antagonist bicuculline (20 μM). Voltage clamp studies showed that CPS increased GABAergic sIPSCs in LC cells, which was blocked by the GABAB receptor antagonist phaclofen. Functional GABAergic connections of DTN neurons with LC cells were shown.

These results suggest that CPS improves breathing dysfunction in Mecp2-null mice by blocking GIRK channels in synaptic terminals and enhancing GABA release.


Cloperastine (CPS) is a central-acting antitussive working on brainstem neuronal networks The drug has several characteristics. 1) It affects the brainstem integration of multiple sensory inputs via multiple sites including K+ channels, histamine and sigma receptors. 2) Its overall effect is inhibitory, suppressing cough and reactive airway signals. 3) With a large safety margin, it has been approved as an over-the-counter medicine in several Asian and European countries.  

With the evidence that DTN cells receive GABAergic recurrent inhibition, we tested whether the inhibitory effect of CPS was caused by enhanced GABAergic transmission. Thus, we recorded the evoked firing activity of DTN cells before and during bath application of CPS in the presence of 20 μM bicuculline. Under this condition, CPS failed to decrease the excitability of DTN neurons (F(1,9) = 0.41, P > 0.05; two‐way repeated measures ANOVA) (n=9) (Fig. 8), indicating that the inhibitory effect relies on GABAA synaptic input 


It appeared to me that the breathing issues might be considered as another consequence of the excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) imbalance that is a core feature of much severe autism.

In the case of Rett the lack of BDNF will make any E/I imbalance worse and that by treating the E/I imbalance we will produce the inhibitory effect from GABAa receptors that is needed to ensure correct breathing.  Note that in bumetanide responsive autism there is no inhibitory effect from GABAa receptors, the effect is excitatory.

I did wonder if arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) is present in Rett, since the breathing problems in Rett are also seen as being caused by a dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system. Arrhythmia is actually a big problem for girls with Rett syndrome.  Regular readers of this blog might then ask about Propranolol, does that help?  It turns out to have been tried and it is not so helpful.  What is effective is another drug we have come across for autism, the sodium channel blocker Phenytoin.  Phenytoin is antiepileptic drug (AED) and it works by blocking voltage gated sodium channels.

Low dose phenytoin was proposed as an autism therapy and a case study was published from Australia. In a separate case study, phenytoin was used to treat self-injury that was triggered by frontal lobe seizures.

When you treat arrhythmia in Rett girls with Phenytoin does it have an impact on their breathing problems?

If you treat the girls with Phenytoin do they still go on to develop epilepsy?

What about if you add treatment with Bumetanide to reduce symptoms of autism? 

Lots of questions looking for answers.


What is Rett Syndrome?

Rett syndrome was first identified in the 1950s by Dr Andreas Rett as a disorder that develops in young girls.  Only as recently as 1999 was it determined that the syndrome is caused by a mutation in the MECP2 gene on the X chromosome.  The X chromosome is very important because girls have two copies, but boys have just one.  Rett was an Austrian like many other early researchers in autism like Kanner and Asperger. Even Freud was educated in Vienna. Eugen Bleuler lived pretty close by in Switzerland and he coined the terms schizophrenia, schizoid and autism. 

Rett syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects brain development, resulting in severe mental and physical disability.

It is estimated to affect about 1 in 12,000 girls born each year.

Rett is a rare condition, but among these rare conditions it is quite common and so there is a lot of research going on to find treatments.  The obvious one is gene therapy to get the brain to make the missing MeCP2 protein.

Rett syndrome is thankfully rare in absolute terms, but it is one of the best known development conditions that is associated with autism symptoms.

While Rett syndrome may not officially be an ASD in the DSM-5, the link to autism remains. Many children are diagnosed as autistic before the MECP2 mutation is identified and then the diagnosis is revised to RTT/Rett. 

Fragile X  syndrome (FXS), on the other hand, is the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability (ID), as well as the most frequent single gene type of autism.

In the meantime, the logical strategy is to treat the downstream consequences of the mutated gene. Much is known about these downstream effects and there overlaps with some broader autism and indeed dementia.

One area known to be disturbed in Rett, some other autisms and dementia is growth factors inside the brain. The best known growth factors are IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1), BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and my favorite NGF (Nerve growth factor).

Without wanting to get too complicated we need to note that BDNF acts via a receptor called TrkB.  You can either increase BDNF or just find something else to activate TrkB, as pointed out to me by Daniel.

For readers whose children respond to Bumetanide they are benefiting from correcting elevated levels of chloride in neurons. Too much had been entering by the transporter NKCC1 and too little exiting via KCC2.

One of the effects of having too little BDNF and hence not enough activation of TrkB is that chloride becomes elevated in neurons.  If you do not activate TrkB you do not get enough KCC2, which is what allows chloride to exit neurons.

To what extent would TrkB activation be an alternative/complement to bumetanide in broader autism?

To what extent would TrkB activation be success in treating some types of chronic pain (where KCC2 is known to be down regulated)?

Low levels of BDNF are a feature of Rett and much dementia.

So you would want to:

·        Increase BDNF

·        Activate TRKB with something else

·        Block NKCC2 to compensate for the lack of KCC2

Note that BDNF is not reduced in all types of autism, just in a sub-group.

I note that there already is solid evidence in the research:-

Restoration of motor learning in a mouse model of Rett syndrome following long-term treatment with a novel small-molecule activator of TrkB

Reduced expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and impaired activation of the BDNF receptor, tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB; also known as Ntrk2), are thought to contribute significantly to the pathophysiology of Rett syndrome (RTT), a severe neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations in the X-linked gene encoding methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Previous studies from this and other laboratories have shown that enhancing BDNF expression and/or TrkB activation in Mecp2-deficient mouse models of RTT can ameliorate or reverse abnormal neurological phenotypes that mimic human RTT symptoms. The present study reports on the preclinical efficacy of a novel, small-molecule, non-peptide TrkB partial agonist, PTX-BD4-3, in heterozygous female Mecp2 mutant mice, a well-established RTT model that recapitulates the genetic mosaicism of the human disease. PTX-BD4-3 exhibited specificity for TrkB in cell-based assays of neurotrophin receptor activation and neuronal cell survival and in in vitro receptor binding assays. PTX-BD4-3 also activated TrkB following systemic administration to wild-type and Mecp2 mutant mice and was rapidly cleared from the brain and plasma with a half-life of 2 h. Chronic intermittent treatment of Mecp2 mutants with a low dose of PTX-BD4-3 (5 mg/kg, intraperitoneally, once every 3 days for 8 weeks) reversed deficits in two core RTT symptom domains – respiration and motor control – and symptom rescue was maintained for at least 24 h after the last dose. Together, these data indicate that significant clinically relevant benefit can be achieved in a mouse model of RTT with a chronic intermittent, low-dose treatment paradigm targeting the neurotrophin receptor TrkB. 

Early alterations in a mouse model of Rett syndrome: the GABA developmental shift is abolished at birth

Genetic mutations of the Methyl-CpG-binding protein-2 (MECP2) gene underlie Rett syndrome (RTT). Developmental processes are often considered to be irrelevant in RTT pathogenesis but neuronal activity at birth has not been recorded. We report that the GABA developmental shift at birth is abolished in CA3 pyramidal neurons of Mecp2−/y mice and the glutamatergic/GABAergic postsynaptic currents (PSCs) ratio is increased. Two weeks later, GABA exerts strong excitatory actions, the glutamatergic/GABAergic PSCs ratio is enhanced, hyper-synchronized activity is present and metabotropic long-term depression (LTD) is impacted. One day before delivery, maternal administration of the NKCC1 chloride importer antagonist bumetanide restored these parameters but not respiratory or weight deficits, nor the onset of mortality. Results suggest that birth is a critical period in RTT with important alterations that can be attenuated by bumetanide raising the possibility of early treatment of the disorder.


The GABA Polarity Shift and Bumetanide Treatment: Making Sense Requires Unbiased and Undogmatic Analysis


GABA depolarizes and often excites immature neurons in all animal species and brain structures investigated due to a developmentally regulated reduction in intracellular chloride concentration ([Cl]i) levels. The control of [Cl]i levels is mediated by the chloride cotransporters NKCC1 and KCC2, the former usually importing chloride and the latter exporting it. The GABA polarity shift has been extensively validated in several experimental conditions using often the NKCC1 chloride importer antagonist bumetanide. In spite of an intrinsic heterogeneity, this shift is abolished in many experimental conditions associated with developmental disorders including autism, Rett syndrome, fragile X syndrome, or maternal immune activation. Using bumetanide, an EMA- and FDA-approved agent, many clinical trials have shown promising results with the expected side effects. Kaila et al. have repeatedly challenged these experimental and clinical observations. Here, we reply to the recent reviews by Kaila et al. stressing that the GABA polarity shift is solidly accepted by the scientific community as a major discovery to understand brain development and that bumetanide has shown promising effects in clinical trials.


Back in 2013 a case study was published showing Bumetanide worked for a boy with Fragile X syndrome. A decade later and still nobody has looked to see if it works in all Fragile X. 

Treating Fragile X syndrome with the diuretic bumetanide: a case report

We report that daily administration of the diuretic NKCC1 chloride co-transporter, bumetanide, reduces the severity of autism in a 10-year-old Fragile X boy using CARS, ADOS, ABC, RDEG and RRB before and after treatment. In keeping with extensive clinical use of this diuretic, the only side effect was a small hypokalaemia. A double-blind clinical trial is warranted to test the efficacy of bumetanide in FRX.


What do Rett syndrome and Fragile X have in common? 

In a healthy mature neuron the level of chloride needs to be low for it to function correctly (the neurotransmitter GABA to be inhibitory).


Rett and Fragile X are part of a large group of conditions that feature elevated levels of chloride in neurons.


Elevated chloride in neurons is treatable.


Is Bumetanide a cure for Rett syndrome, or Fragile X?

No it is not, but it is a step in that direction because it reverses a key defect present in at least some Rett and some Fragile X.

In the mouse model of Rett, bumetanide corrected some, but not all the problems caused by the loss of function of the MECP2 gene.


Moving on to IGF-1

IGF-1 is a growth hormone with multiple functions throughout aging. Production of IGF-1 is stimulated by GH (growth hormone).

The lowest levels occur in infancy and old age and highest levels occur around the growth spurt before puberty.

Girls with Turner syndrome, lack their second X chromosome and this causes a lack of growth hormones and female hormones. They end up with short stature and with features of autism. Treatment is possible with GH or indeed IGF-1.

In dementia one strategy is to increase IGF-1.  This same strategy is also being applied to single gene autisms like Rett and Pitt Hopkins.

Trofinetide and NNZ-2591 are improved synthetic analogues of peptides that occur naturally in the brain and are related to IGF-1. Trofinetide is being developed to treat Rett and Fragile X syndromes, NNZ-2591 is being developed to treat Angelman, Phelan-McDermid, Pitt Hopkins and Prader-Willi syndromes.


NGF (nerve growth factor)

Nerve growth factor does what it says (boosting nerve growth), plus much more. NGF plays a key role in the immune system, it is produced in mast cells, and it plays a role in how pain in perceived.

NGF acts via NGF receptors, not surprisingly, but also via TrkA receptors. We saw earlier in this post that BDNF acts via TrkB receptors.

Once NGF binds to the TrkA receptor it triggers a cascade of signalling via  the Ras/MAPK pathway and the PI3K/Akt pathway.  Both pathways relate to autism and Ras itself can play a role in intellectual disability. 

These are also cancer pathways and indeed NGF seems to play a role.  Beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin and these beta cells have TrkA receptors. In type 1 diabetes these beta cells die.  Beta cells need NGF to activate their TrkA receptors to survive.

Clearly for multiple reasons you need plenty of NGF.

Lack of NGF would be one cause of dementia and that is why Rita Levi-Montalcini choose to self-treat with NGF eye drops for 30 years. Rita won a Nobel prize for discovering NGF.

In Rett syndrome we know that the level of NGF is very low in the brain.

Logical therapies for Rett would seem to include:

·        NGF itself, perhaps taken as eye drops, but tricky to administer

·        A TrkA agonist, that would mimic the effect of NGF

·        The traditional medicinal mushroom  Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) 

We should note that effect of NGF acting via TrkA is mainly in the peripheral nervous system, not the brain.

It has long been known that Lions’ Mane (Hericium erinaceus) increases NGF but it was not clear why.  This has very recently been answered.

The active chemical has been identified to be N-de phenylethyl isohericerin (NDPIH).

The opens the door to synthesizing NDPIH as drug to treat a wide range of conditions from Alzheimer’s to Rett. 

Mushrooms Magnify Memory by Boosting Nerve Growth  

Active compounds in the edible Lion’s Mane mushroom can help promote neurogenesis and enhance memory, a new study reports. Preclinical trials report the compound had a significant impact on neural growth and improved memory formation. Researchers say the compound could have clinical applications in treating and preventing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Frederic Meunier from the Queensland Brain Institute said the team had identified new active compounds from the mushroom, Hericium erinaceus.

“Extracts from these so-called ‘lion’s mane’ mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine in Asian countries for centuries, but we wanted to scientifically determine their potential effect on brain cells,” Professor Meunier said.

“Pre-clinical testing found the lion’s mane mushroom had a significant impact on the growth of brain cells and improving memory.

“Laboratory tests measured the neurotrophic effects of compounds isolated from Hericium erinaceus on cultured brain cells, and surprisingly we found that the active compounds promote neuron projections, extending and connecting to other neurons.

“Using super-resolution microscopy, we found the mushroom extract and its active components largely increase the size of growth cones, which are particularly important for brain cells to sense their environment and establish new connections with other neurons in the brain.” 


Hericerin derivatives activates a pan‐neurotrophic pathway in central hippocampal neurons converging to ERK1/2 signaling enhancing spatial memory

The traditional medicinal mushroom Hericium erinaceus is known for enhancing peripheral nerve regeneration through targeting nerve growth factor (NGF) neurotrophic activity. Here, we purified and identified biologically new active compounds from H. erinaceus, based on their ability to promote neurite outgrowth in hippocampal neurons. N-de phenylethyl isohericerin (NDPIH), an isoindoline compound from this mushroom, together with its hydrophobic derivative hericene A, were highly potent in promoting extensive axon outgrowth and neurite branching in cultured hippocampal neurons even in the absence of serum, demonstrating potent neurotrophic activity. Pharmacological inhibition of tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) by ANA-12 only partly prevented the NDPIH-induced neurotrophic activity, suggesting a potential link with BDNF signaling. However, we found that NDPIH activated ERK1/2 signaling in the absence of TrkB in HEK-293T cells, an effect that was not sensitive to ANA-12 in the presence of TrkB. Our results demonstrate that NDPIH acts via a complementary neurotrophic pathway independent of TrkB with converging downstream ERK1/2 activation. Mice fed with H. erinaceus crude extract and hericene A also exhibited increased neurotrophin expression and downstream signaling, resulting in significantly enhanced hippocampal memory. Hericene A therefore acts through a novel pan-neurotrophic signaling pathway, leading to improved cognitive performance.


Since the discovery of the first neurotrophin, NGF, more than 70 years ago, countless studies have demonstrated their ability to promote neurite regeneration, prevent or reverse neuronal degeneration and enhance synaptic plasticity. Neurotrophins have attracted the attention of the scientific community in the view to implement therapeutic strategies for the treatment of a number of neurological disorders. Unfortunately, their actual therapeutic applications have been limited and the potential use of their beneficial effects remain to be exploited. Neurotrophins, for example, have poor oral bioavailability, and very low stability in serum, with half-lives in the order of minutes  as well as minimal BBB permeability and restricted diffusion within brain parenchyma. In addition, their receptor signaling networks can confer undesired off-target effects such as pain, spasticity and even neurodegeneration. As a consequence, alternative strategies to increase neurotrophin levels, improve their pharmacokinetic limitations or target specific receptors have been developed. Identification of bioactive compounds derived from natural products with neurotrophic activities also provide new hope in the development of sustainable therapeutical interventions. Hericerin derivative are therefore attractive compounds for their ability to promote a pan-neurotrophic effect with converging ERK1/2 downstream signaling pathway and for their ability to promote the expression of neurotrophins. Further work will be needed to find the direct target of Hericerin capable of mediating such a potent pan-neurotrophic activity and establish whether this novel pathway can be harnessed to improve memory performance and for slowing down the cognitive decline associated with ageing and neurodegenerative diseases.


What this means is that there are 2 good reasons why Lion’s Mane should be helpful in Rett syndrome, both increasing BDNF and NGF.



Interestingly, one of the above papers is co-authored by a researcher from the European Brain Research Institute, founded by Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Nobel laureate who discovered NGF (Nerve growth factor). My top pick to test next in Rett syndrome would be NGF. Administration would have to follow Rita’s own example and be in the form of eye drops or follow the Lion’s Mane option, that has recently been further validated.

Rett syndrome is very well documented and many researchers are engaged in studying it.

As with broader autism, the problem is translating all the research into practical therapy today.

Clearly polytherapy will be required.

More than one type of neuronal hyperexcitability seems to be in play.

It looks like one E/I imbalance is the bumetanide responsive kind, that can be treated and will reduce autism symptoms and improve learning skills.  Then we have the hypoventilation/apnea for which Cloperastine looks a fair bet.  For the arrhythmia we have Phenytoin.  If there are still seizures after all that therapy it looks like sodium valproate is the standard treatment for Rett.

Sodium valproate is also an HDAC inhibitor and so has possibly beneficial epigenetic effects as a bonus.

I have always liked the idea of the Lion’s Mane mushrooms as a means to increase NGF (Nerve growth factor).  In today’s post we saw that it is the NDPIH from the mushrooms that acts to increase both BDNF and NGF.  You would struggle to buy NDPIH but you can buy these mushrooms. I did once buy the supplement version of these mushrooms and it was contaminated, so I think the best bet is the actual chemical or the actual mushroom.  One reader did write in once who is a big consumer of these mushrooms.


Lion's Mane Mushroom

Source: Igelstachelbart Nov 06


A Trk-B agonist that can penetrate the blood brain barrier would look a good idea.  There are some sold by the nootropic people.

7,8-dihydroxyflavone is such an agonist that showed a benefit in the mouse model.


7,8-dihydroxyflavone exhibits therapeutic efficacy in a mouse model of Rett syndrome

Following weaning, 7,8-DHF was administered in drinking water throughout life. Treated mutant mice lived significantly longer compared with untreated mutant littermates (80 ± 4 and 66 ± 2 days, respectively). 7,8-DHF delayed body weight loss, increased neuronal nuclei size and enhanced voluntary locomotor (running wheel) distance in Mecp2 mutant mice. In addition, administration of 7,8-DHF partially improved breathing pattern irregularities and returned tidal volumes to near wild-type levels. Thus although the specific mechanisms are not completely known, 7,8-DHF appears to reduce disease symptoms in Mecp2 mutant mice and may have potential as a therapeutic treatment for RTT patients.

Rett syndrome also features mitochondrial dysfunction and a variant of metabolic syndrome.  We have quite a resource available from broader autism, not much of it seems to have been applied in Rett.

You can see that in Rett less oxygen is available due to breathing issues and yet more oxygen is required due to “faulty” mitochondria. 

“Intensified mitochondrial O2 consumption, increased mitochondrial ROS generation and disturbed redox balance in mitochondria and cytosol may represent a causal chain, which provokes dysregulated proteins, oxidative tissue damage, and contributes to neuronal network dysfunction in RTT.”,inner%20membrane%20is%20leaking%20protons.


We have seen in this blog that 2 old drugs exist to increase oxygen levels in blood.  The Western world has Diamox (Acetazolamide) and the former soviet world has Mildronate/Meldonium. Mildronate also was suggested to have some wider potential benefit to mitochondria.

Rett is proposed as a neurological disorder with metabolic components, so based on what we have seen in this blog, you would think along the lines of Metformin, Pioglitazone and a lipophilic statin (Atorvastatin, Simvastatin or Lovastatin). 

The Anti-Diabetic Drug Metformin Rescues Aberrant Mitochondrial Activity and Restrains Oxidative Stress in a Female Mouse Model of Rett Syndrome

Statins improve symptoms of Rett syndrome in mice

The ultimate Rett cure will be one of the new gene therapies given to a baby before any significant progression of the disorder has occurred.

For everyone else, it looks like there is scope to develop a pretty potent individualized polytherapy, just by applying the very substantial knowledge that already exists in the research.

Good luck to Daniel and all the others seeking answers.


Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Bumetanide - Biomarkers from Shanghai for Autism responders


“three cytokine levels, namely the IFN-γ, MIG and IFN-α2  … These cytokine levels at the baseline could improve the prediction of the bumetanide responders”

“… cytokines had a potential to construct a blood signature for predicting and monitoring the bumetanide treatment in young children with ASD.”

“a significant part of the clinical heterogeneity in the treatment effect of bumetanide for ASD is associated with the differences in the immune system of patients”


Autism is a very heterogeneous family of conditions and this is a big part of the reason why all clinical trials to date have failed.  Ideally, there would be a diagnostic test to identify which person will respond to which therapy.  Then you can have a successful clinical trial, because you are only including people likely to respond.

Researchers from China have just published their results that suggest that a blood test measuring three inflammatory markers can predict who will respond to bumetanide.  This is good news and where it is coming from is also very notable.

Autism research has been very fragmented, some of it is very sophisticated and insightful but much is very amateur and some is quite trivial.  There is usually a real lack of common sense among these people and no sense of urgency whatsoever.

China is a very organised country; plans are made and then they are implemented.  Forget political correctness.

This kind of approach is what is required to move along with autism treatment.

In addition, there is also another new study from China, this time on the microbiota in autism that compared those with and without GI problems (it found it is equally disturbed in both groups). Hopefully, that Chinese group will do the next common sense step and compare the microbiota of autistic people with and without restrictive diets. To what extent to people give themselves a microbiota problem through poor diet.


Disentangling the relationship of gut microbiota, functional gastrointestinal disorders and autism: a case–control study on prepubertal Chinese boys

The altered gastrointestinal microbiota composition in ASD appeared to be independent of comorbid functional gastrointestinal disorder


The bumetanide researchers are from Fudan University in Shanghai, one of the 3 ultra-selective Chinese Universities alongside Tsinghua University and Peking University in Beijing.

The paper, not surprisingly, may look complicated, but there are a great deal of interesting things in it.

In their words:-

An immuno-behavioural covariation was identified between symptom improvements in the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the cytokine changes among interferon (IFN)-γ, monokine induced by gamma interferon and IFN-α2. Using this covariation, three groups with distinct response patterns to bumetanide were detected

The three groups were: best responders, least responders and medium responders.

It should be noted that the dosage used in their trials was 0.5mg of bumetanide twice a day.

Chinese children tend to be smaller than Western children and this might help explain why the results were more positive than in Servier’s failed phase 3 clinical trial in Europe. I also imagine the Chinese children were more severely autistic than the European group.

The dosage used is selected to minimize the diuresis rather than to maximize the impact on the autism. This is understandable, but I think it is a mistake.


The immuno-behavioural covariation associated with the treatment response to bumetanide in young children with autism spectrum disorder 

Bumetanide, a drug being studied in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may act to restore gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) function, which may be modulated by the immune system. However, the interaction between bumetanide and the immune system remains unclear. Seventy-nine children with ASD were analysed from a longitudinal sample for a 3-month treatment of bumetanide. The covariation between symptom improvements and cytokine changes was calculated and validated by sparse canonical correlation analysis. Response patterns to bumetanide were revealed by clustering analysis. Five classifiers were used to test whether including the baseline information of cytokines could improve the prediction of the response patterns using an independent test sample. An immuno-behavioural covariation was identified between symptom improvements in the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and the cytokine changes among interferon (IFN)-γ, monokine induced by gamma interferon and IFN-α2. Using this covariation, three groups with distinct response patterns to bumetanide were detected, including the best (21.5%, n = 17; Hedge’s g of improvement in CARS = 2.16), the least (22.8%, n = 18; g = 1.02) and the medium (55.7%, n = 44; g = 1.42) responding groups. Including the cytokine levels significantly improved the prediction of the best responding group before treatment (the best area under the curve, AUC = 0.832) compared with the model without the cytokine levels (95% confidence interval of the improvement in AUC was [0.287, 0.319]). Cytokine measurements can help in identifying possible responders to bumetanide in ASD children, suggesting that immune responses may interact with the mechanism of action of bumetanide to enhance the GABA function in ASD.


The use of bumetanide as a potential drug to improve symptoms in ASD is based on a hypothesised pathoetiology of ASD, namely the delayed developmental switch of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) functioning from excitatory to inhibitory [10,11,12]. In the valproate and fragile X rodent models of autism, this GABA-switch can be facilitated by the reduction of intracellular chloride concentration, which is mediated by a sequential expression of the main chloride transporters, such as the potassium (K)-Cl co-transporters 2 (KCC2) and the importer Na-K-Cl cotransporter 1 (NKCC1) [12]. Therefore, bumetanide as an NKCC1 inhibitor has been tested for its ability to restore GABA function in ASD [5,6,71314]. However, these transporters can also be influenced by other molecules, such as cytokines, which are a number of small cell-signalling proteins closely interacting with each other to modulate the immune reactions. The cytokines have been implicated not only in brain development [15], but also in GABAergic transmission [16,17,18]. It has been reported that the interferon (IFN)-γ can decrease the levels of NKCC1 and the α-subunit of Na+-K+-ATPase, contributing to the restore of inhibitory GABA function [16]. In mice subjected to maternal deprivation, the interleukin (IL)-1 has also been found to reduce the expression of KCC2, delaying the developmental switch of the GABA function and thereby possibly contributing to the pathophysiology of developmental disorders such as ASD [1718]. Therefore, a question naturally arises that whether the treatment effect of bumetanide for ASD can be affected by the immune responses in the patients.

Indeed, compared with healthy controls, changes of the cytokine levels have already been reported in patients with ASD [19,20,21,22]. Recent meta-analyses showed that the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-10 and IL-1 receptor antagonist (Ra) were decreased [20], while proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6 and anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4, IL-13 were elevated in blood of patients with ASD [21]. The levels of IFN-γ, IL-6, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and IL-8 were observed to be elevated [22] in postmortem brain tissues of ASD patients, and increased level of IFN-γ, monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1, IL-8, leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and interferon-gamma inducible protein (IP)-10 were found in another study [23]. These widely spread changes suggest that the cytokine signalling in ASD may be better characterised by multivariate patterns of cytokines. In literatures, many associations had been reported between the levels of cytokines (e.g., MCP-1, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-6, etc.) and both core symptoms and adaptive functions in children with ASD [24,25,26]. Therefore, it has been suggested that cytokines may be used as biomarkers to identify different subsets within ASD. In each of these subsets the patients with ASD may share a commonly immune-related pathoetiology and therefore may have similar profiles of response to treatment [27].

Based on these previous findings, we analysed data acquired through the Shanghai Xinhua ASD registry, China, that began in 2016 to test the hypothesis that the immune activity of patients might help to identify the best responders to bumetanide in ASD.


Between May 1st, 2018, to April 30th, 2019, a total of 90 ASD children, aged 3–10 years old, under a 3-month stable treatment of bumetanide without behavioural interventions and any concomitant psychoactive medications had both blood draws and behavioural assessments. Among these patients, 11 of them were further excluded due to the lack of the follow-up data at month 3. A group of 37 children, under 3-month stable treatment of placebo without behavioural interventions and any concomitant psychoactive medications had both blood draws and behavioural assessments. Therefore, the current analysis used a subsample of 116 young children with ASD, whose blood samples were available both before and after the treatment. The blood samples were sent in three batches (Discovery Set: n = 37 on December 4, 2019; Validation Set: n = 42 on May 22, 2019; and Control Set: n = 37 on January 5, 2022) to measure the serum levels of 48 cytokines for the immune response (Table S1), and the clinical symptoms were assessed using CARS, ADOS and the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). 

In this study, we observed a significant improvement of clinical symptoms with bumetanide treatment in children with ASD, and such improvement was associated with a pattern of changes in three cytokine levels, namely the IFN-γ, MIG and IFN-α2 (r = 0.459 in the Discovery Set and r = 0.316 in the Validation Set). These cytokine levels at the baseline could improve the prediction of the bumetanide responders compared with using the behavioural assessments alone, and the best predictor achieved an AUC of 0.83 in the independent test data set (Table S8). The implications of these findings may be twofold: (1) a significant part of the clinical heterogeneity in the treatment effect of bumetanide for ASD is associated with the differences in the immune system of patients, and (2) the component score of cytokines had a potential to construct a blood signature for predicting and monitoring the bumetanide treatment in young children with ASD.

Following the protocols of previous studies [8], bumetanide treatment consisted of two 0.5 mg tablets per day for three months, given at 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The tablet size is 8 mm diameter x 2 mm thickness, which is quite small. Each time, the patient took half of a tablet, which was not difficult for most of the patients. However, the careers were recommended to grind the half-tablet into powder and give the powder in water, if necessary. Possible side effects were closely monitored during the treatment. Blood parameters (serum potassium and uric acid) were monitored via laboratory tests (Table S2) and symptoms (thirst, diuresis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, rash, palpitation, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, and any other self-reported symptoms) were telephone interviewed (Table S3), and both of them were reported to the research team by telephone at 1 week and 1 month after the initiation of treatment and at the end of the treatment period. The cytokine levels of the children with gastrointestinal problems were compared with those without such problems (Table S4).

The supplemental table S4 shows that GI problems had no effect on cytokine levels.

Changes after the administration of bumetanide

Seventy-nine patients were treated with bumetanide for 3 months, and the CARS total score decreased after the treatment (effect size Cohen’s d = 1.26, t78 = 11.21, p < 0.001). The treatment effect showed no difference between the Discovery Set and the Validation Set (ΔCARS_total: mean(±SD): 1.54 (±1.40) vs. 1.90 (±1.34)). Consistent to the previous studies of the low-dose bumetanide for ASD, the side effects were rarely reported (Tables S2 and S3). No significant difference in the cytokine levels between the children with and without the gastrointestinal problems at the baseline (Table S4). A number of cytokine levels were changed significantly after the treatment of bumetanide, but none of them was changed significantly after the treatment of placebo (Table S6). No significant pairwise association could be identified in the Discovery Set, the Validation Set and the Control Set among four groups of variables, including the baseline CARS total score, the baseline cytokine levels, the change of CARS total score, and the changes of cytokine levels (Fig. S2).


In this study, we observed a significant improvement of clinical symptoms with bumetanide treatment in children with ASD, and such improvement was associated with a pattern of changes in three cytokine levels, namely the IFN-γ, MIG and IFN-α2 (r = 0.459 in the Discovery Set and r = 0.316 in the Validation Set). These cytokine levels at the baseline could improve the prediction of the bumetanide responders compared with using the behavioural assessments alone, and the best predictor achieved an AUC of 0.83 in the independent test data set (Table S8). The implications of these findings may be twofold: (1) a significant part of the clinical heterogeneity in the treatment effect of bumetanide for ASD is associated with the differences in the immune system of patients, and (2) the component score of cytokines had a potential to construct a blood signature for predicting and monitoring the bumetanide treatment in young children with ASD.

Accumulating evidences support that IFN-γ can inhibit chloride secretion [38] and down-regulate both the NKCC1 expression [1638] and the Na+-K+-ATPase expression [16], which had been implicated in the GABAergic dysfunction in ASD [1039].


The cytokine-symptom association was identified in the changes after the treatment of bumetanide but not before the treatment, suggesting that bumetanide might interact with the cytokines and the changes of which contributed to the treatment effect of bumetanide. Animal studies showed a rapid brain efflux of bumetanide, but a number of clinical trials have shown a significant treatment effect for neuropsychiatric disorders, including ASD, epilepsy and depression [4142]. These findings may suggest the possible systemic effects of bumetanide as a neuromodulator for these neuropsychiatric disorders. Considering its molecular structure, bumetanide has been recently identified by an in vitro screen of small molecules that can act as an anti-proinflammatory drug via interleukin inhibition [43]. This anti-proinflammatory activity of bumetanide might alter the blood levels of cytokines outside the brain-blood-barrier (BBB).

Our findings may suggest that the identified canonical score of cytokines had a potential to construct a blood signature for predicting and monitoring the bumetanide treatment in young children with ASD. Accurately identifying patients who are likely to respond positively to bumetanide can facilitate the precision medicine for ASD. Our prediction model based on the cytokine levels before the treatment may provide a potentially new tool for the precision medicine of ASD. 


In summary, we identified an association between the changes of the cytokine levels and the improvements in symptoms after the bumetanide treatment in young children with ASD, and found that the treatment effect of bumetanide can be better characterised by an immuno-behavioural covariation. This finding may provide new clinically important evidence supporting the hypothesis that immune responses may interact with the mechanism of bumetanide to restore the GABAergic function in ASD. This finding may also have relevance for determining enriched samples of ASD children to participate in novel drug treatment studies of drugs with a similar mode of action to bumetanide, but with potentially greater efficacy and fewer side effects.



I think we can give the Shanghai researchers 10 out of 10 for their paper.

Monty, aged 18 with ASD, has been to Shanghai twice. It is a vast city, but well worth a visit. With the high speed train network it is now very easy to travel around China, quite different to when I visited as a teenager.

Hopefully the Chinese will continue in their pursuit of precision medicine for autism. They do not have much competition.

My perspective is a little different because I know that a bumetanide responder can cease to be a responder when affected by an inflammatory condition like allergy, which increases pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-6. This suggests that some people with elevated cytokines are potential responders, you just have to use an anti-inflammatory therapy before you start bumetanide therapy. The inflammatory cytokines shift the balance between NKCC1 and KCC2 towards NKCC1 and so increasing intracellular chloride.  We also know that some people need a dose higher than 0.5mg twice a day to see a large benefit; I have been using 2mg once a day for several years.

The Chinese researchers have established biomarkers for who is likely now to respond to bumetanide. This certainly is a big step forward, if it can be replicated. This is not the same as identifying who could respond to bumetanide, if their current inflammatory condition was moderated. The levels of specific cytokines might indeed mark someone as both a current non-responder, but also as a potential future responder.

Autism is all about n=1, it is about the exceptions being more important than the average.

Unlike the Shanghai researchers, I do not really see Bumetanide as an anti-inflammatory therapy in my son’s Polypill, but I do have therapies included that are.

Understanding inflammation will be a key to treating autism using precision medicine.  That is less simple that it sounds. When it comes to preventing autism, inflammation in the mother is a key part of the equation. This also gets complicated, maternal antibodies damage the brain of the fetus, no genetic mutations were needed.