Showing posts with label DJ-1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DJ-1. Show all posts

Thursday 29 January 2015

Cinnamon and DJ-1 as a general Anti-Oxidant and perhaps Much More

I am shortly going to introduce a complicated sounding substance called DAAO (D-amino acid oxidase) to this blog.  DAAO seems to be important in some types of autism, most schizophrenia and bipolar.  This will take us back to Cinnamon and Sodium Benzoate that were discussed in earlier posts.

The connection to UCLA will come at the end of the post.  UCLA is home to the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), but this post is all about biochemistry.  Before the internet existed,  I used to use one of their libraries for some research.

Prior to DAAO, I just want to make the case again for the medical effects of Cinnamon in typical people.

Accepted medical wisdom is that there is currently no proof of any benefit from Cinnamon.  Cinnamon does have known and quantifiable anti-oxidant properties in vitro, but research has shown that what happens in vivo can be quite different.  The whole idea of the ORAC scale, which measures the relative power of antioxidants, has lost credibility and is no longer used by “serious science”.

In an earlier post we saw a study that showed in both people with type 2 diabetes and the control group, cholesterol and fasting glucose levels were reduced by cinnamon.  This implied an increase in insulin sensitivity (and reduction in insulin resistance).
I also found numerous people posting their before and after cinnamon blood test results, confirming this benefit.

However, there were other studies showing no effect on fasting glucose levels and insulin sensitivity, which looked odd.

Why does this matter?

I am trying to establish that one effect of cinnamon comes from being metabolized to sodium benzoate (“benzoate”).  Benzoate then upregulates production of a protein called DJ-1.  DJ-1 was discovered by researchers looking at Parkinson’s Disease.  DJ-1 is known to have anti-oxidant properties, both directly and in support of a clever substance called Nrf-2.  Nrf-2 is released by the body when it senses an oxidative attack and its job is to switch on the body’s anti-oxidant genes.  But Nrf-2 cannot do this without some help from DJ-1; if DJ-1 is lacking, the key genes stay switched off.

One well established effect of Sulforaphane (from broccoli) is that it activates the production of Nrf-2.  This seems to account for the anti-oxidant and chemo-protective effects.

One reader of this blog confirmed the increase in insulin sensitivity produced by Sulforaphane from broccoli.  For the doctors among you, 2.5ml of broccoli powder had 25% of the effect of 600 mg of Alpha lipoic acid (ALA).  600mg of ALA reduced the insulin requirement by 25%.

In some people they lack DJ-1.  This raises their risk of Parkinson’s Disease, likely also COPD and I suggested possibly Autism and any other condition associated with oxidative stress.

Then I came across a trial of sodium benzoate in schizophrenia:-

We know that a characteristic of anti-oxidants, in varying degrees, is that they also reduce cholesterol and increase insulin sensitivity.

So we should expect that eating cinnamon would quickly cause sodium benzoate to be produced, causing an up-regulation in DJ-1.  The first effect should be a reduction in oxidative stress and then an increase in insulin sensitivity and a reduction in fasting glucose levels. Reduced oxidative stress will affect the lipid metabolism and lower cholesterol.

Some clinical trials last for 12 weeks, some even longer, but many are shorter.  In the following cinnamon trial, blood parameters were measured at week 0, week 6 and week 12.

They happened to test people who were overweight (so at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes), but I think it would apply to everyone.

They choose to measure several markers of oxidative stress, as well as fasting glucose and plasma insulin levels.
Therefore, this work was designed to investigate in people that are overweight or obese, with impaired fasting glycemia, the effects of a twelve week supplementation of the dried aqueous extract of cinnamon on oxidative stress markers including plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, plasma thiol (SH) group oxidation, FRAP (Ferric Reducing Activity Plasma), antioxidant erythrocyte enzyme activities as superoxide dismutase (Cu-Zn SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and the possible correlation with fasting glucose and plasma insulin levels.

The interesting thing is that while by week 6 the oxidative 3 of the 4 markers of oxidative stress were changing, glucose levels had not.

So if the trial had ended at week 6 we would conclude that cinnamon does not increase insulin sensitivity.

But all changed by the end of week 12, fasting glucose had gone down and fasting insulin had gone up.

This study did not measure cholesterol.  If it had done, we would have expected triglicerides down, LDL (bad) cholesterol down and HDL cholesterol increased.

Since cinnamon is a non standardized natural product, this might explain why in some studies the beneficial effects take longer to become established.

Cinnamon as a DAAO inhibitor

In the next post we will look at D-amino acid oxidase (known as DAAO and also DAO, OXDA, DAMOX).

DAAO is interesting because it is known to be elevated by a factor of two in the brains of people with schizophrenia.  The underlying gene is a probable susceptibility gene for schizophrenia and also bipolar disorder.  DAAO gene polymorphisms were found in boys with autism spectrum disorders in in Korea.

Risperidone and sodium benzoate are the well-known inhibitors of DAAO, but there are others.  Risperidone is an anti-psychotic drug approved for use in schizophrenia, bipolar and autism.  The usually claimed modes of action are that as a dopamine antagonist it possesses anti-serotonergic, anti-adrenergic and anti-histaminergic properties.

This will bring us back to the potential of cinnamon in autism/schizophrenia and whether the mode of action is antioxidant, DAAO inhibitor or both.  If it is just as an antioxidant, does it confer any additional benefit over NAC + Sulforaphane ?  I am interested to find out whether Nrf-2 will be more effective, with the increase in DJ-1; if you were deficient in DJ-1 this should be the case.

DJ-1 produced by cinnamon is one antioxidant, but there clearly are others since no DJ-1 would be produced by cinnamon in vitro.

DAAO inhibitors may produce allergic reactions in people with histamine intolerance.

This might explain one of the warnings for Risperidone:-

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Patent Search

I did a quick patent search to see if anybody else thinks that sodium benzoate might be useful in autism and related conditions.  Here is a small sample of the many patents.  In some cases benzoate is used to increase the effectiveness of other ingredients and others it is the claimed active ingredient.

In the UCLA patent below they combine a D-amino Acid Oxidase Inhibitor (DAAOI), a NMDA enhancer and a Glycine transporter inhibitor.

A method of treating autism in a patient. The method includes administering to the patient an effective amount of a glutamine level reducing agent, a glycine level reducing agent or combinations thereof. Representative glutamine level reducing agents are phenylbutyrate and phenylacetate, and a representative glycine level reducing agent is sodium benzoate. Optionally, an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist can also be administered to the patient. A representative N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist is dextromethorphan.

The invention provides methods for treating neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's Disease, autism, depression, benign forgetfulness, childhood learning disorders, close head injury, and attention deficit disorder. The methods entail administering to a patient diagnosed as having a neuropsychiatric disorder or as at risk for a neuropsychiatric disorder administering to a D-amino Acid Oxidase Inhibitor (DAAOI); in conjunction with an NMDA enhancer and/or a glycine transporter inhibitor.

The invention describes novel methods for treating and preventing dementia caused by vascular diseases; dementia associated with Parkinson's disease; Lewy Body dementia; AIDS dementia; mild cognitive impairments; age-associated memory impairments; cognitive impairments and/or dementia associated with neurologic and/or psychiatric conditions, including epilepsy, brain tumors, brain lesions, multiple sclerosis, Down's syndrome, Rett's syndrome, progressive supranuclear palsy, frontal lobe syndrome, and schizophrenia and related psychiatric disorders; cognitive impairments caused by traumatic brain injury, post coronary artery by-pass graft surgery, electroconvulsive shock therapy, and chemotherapy, administering a therapeutically effective amount of at least one of the cholinesterase inhibitor compounds described herein. The invention also describes novel methods for treating and preventing delirium, Tourette's syndrome, myasthenia gravis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, dyslexia, mania, depression, apathy, and myopathy associated with diabetes by administering a therapeutically effective amount of at least one of the cholinesterase inhibitor compounds described herein. The invention also describes novel methods for delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease, for enhancing cognitive functions, for treating and preventing sleep apnea, for alleviating tobacco withdrawal syndrome, and for treating the dysfunctions of Huntington's Disease by administering a therapeutically effective amount of at least one of the cholinesterase inhibitor compounds described herein. A preferred cholinesterase inhibitor for use in the methods of the invention is donepezil hydrochloride or ARICEPT®. The invention also provides orally administrable liquid dosage formulations comprising cholinesterase inhibitor compounds, such as ARICEPT®.




Methods and compositions are provided for treating neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit disorder, mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and bipolar disorder. The methods entail administering to a patient diagnosed as having a neuropsychiatric disorder (e.g., schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit disorder, mild cognitive impairment, dementia bipolar disorder, etc.) or as at risk for a neuropsychiatric disorder a benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, and/or benzoic acid derivative, and/or a sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, and/or sorbic acid derivative, in combination with a neuropharmacological agent (e.g., an antipsychotic, an antidepressant, medications for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, cognitive impairment, or dementia, etc.) where the benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, or benzoic acid derivative, and/or a sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, and/or sorbic acid derivative, is in an amount sufficient to increase the efficacy of the neuropharmacological agent.

[0062] Without being bound to a particular theory, it is believed that the DAAOI enhances the levels of both D-serine and D-alanine which are agonists of NMDA receptor and have been shown by the inventor to be beneficial for patients with schizophrenia and other disorders. It can help a wide variety of patients with cognitive impairment and other mental or behavioral symptoms. The combination therapies boost the NMDA and/or neuropharmaceutical activity and benefit subjects more than single agent treatments (e.g., antipsychotic drug, antidepressant, anxiolytic, mood stabilizer, psychotropic medication for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, drug for dementia, and the like).

[0063] Accordingly, in certain preferred embodiments, "combination" therapies are contemplated, where the subjects are administered a benzoic acid, a benzoic acid salt, a benzoic acid ester, or another benzoic acid derivative, and/or a sorbic acid, a sorbic acid salt, sorbic acid ester, or another sorbic acid derivative, in conjunction with a neuropharmaceutical (e.g., a therapeutic agent selected from the group consisting of an antipsychotic, an antidepressant, a phsychostimulant, a mood stabilizer, an anxiolytic, an Alzheimer's disease therapeutic, and/or other psychotropic for the treatment of a neuropsychiatric disorder).

[0072] In certain embodiments the combination formulation for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the like comprises a combination of benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, benzoic acid ester, or other benzoic acid derivative, and/or sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, sorbic acid ester, or other sorbic acid derivative and an antipsychotic drug. Suitable antipsychotic drugs include, but are not limited to the antipsychotic drugs described above.
[0073] In certain embodiments the combination formulation for the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the like comprises a combination of depression, panic disorder, social phobial, GAD, and the like comprises a combination of benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, benzoic acid ester, or other benzoic acid derivative, and/or sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, sorbic acid ester, or other sorbic acid derivative and an antidepressant and/or mood stabilizer. Suitable antidepressants and mood stabilizers include, but are not limited to the antidepressants and mood stabilizers described above. [0074] In certain embodiments the combination formulation for the treatment of
ADD and/or ADHD, and the like comprises a combination of benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, benzoic acid ester, or other benzoic acid derivative, and/or sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, sorbic acid ester, or other sorbic acid derivative and an agent for the treatment of ADD and/or ADHD. Suitable agents for the treatment of ADD and/or ADHD include, but are not limited to the agents for the treatment of ADD and/or ADHD described above.

[0076] Typically, in various embodiments, the benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, or derivative thereof (e.g., a benzoate), and/or sorbic acid, a sorbic acid salt, or a derivative thereof, is present in an amount sufficient to enhance therapeutic efficacy of the neuropharmaceutical rather than as a preservative, and/or melting point lowering agent, and/or stabilizer, and/or a lubricant, and/or a stabilizer, etc. In effect, the benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, or derivative thereof, and/or sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, or a derivative thereof, is an active agent. Thus, in various embodiments the benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, benzoic acid ester, or other benzoic acid derivative, and/or sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, sorbic acid ester, or other sorbic acid derivative, is not substantially present as an acid addition salt of the neuropharmaceutical (or at least the majority of the benzoic or sorbic acid or derivative thereof) is not present as an acid salt addition salt of the neuropharmaceutical.. Similarly, in certain embodiments the benzoic acid, benzoic acid salt, benzoic acid ester, or other benzoic acid derivative, and/or sorbic acid, sorbic acid salt, sorbic acid ester, or other sorbic acid derivative, (or at least the majority of the benzoic or sorbic acid or derivative thereof) is not present as a co-crystal of the neuropharmaceutical.

The various treatment strategies described herein can be applied to most if not all of them including, for example, learning disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, Alzheimer's Disease, autism, benign forgetfulness, close head injury, dementia, mild cognitive impairment, ataxia, spinocerebellar degeneration, Parkinson's disease, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, substance abuse, and substance dependence. In addition to their benefits for human subjects, the treatments described herein can be used in veterinary applications (e.g., to canines, felines, equines, bovines, porcines, etc.) with treatment of household pets (e.g., canine, feline) being of considerable interest. In addition, the combination treatments described herein can improve cognition in animal models of learning and model of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and the like. [0080] In certain embodiments the treatment methods of the invention entail administering to a subject in need thereof (e.g., a patient diagnosed as having or at risk for a neuropsychiatric disorder) one or more a pharmaceutical compositions containing a therapeutically effective amount(s) of (i) an NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate)-Enhancer, and/or (ii) a glycine transporter inhibitor, and/or (iii) a D-amino Acid Oxidase Inhibitor (DAAOI). Where combinations of two or all three of these agents are utilized they can be administered separately (simultaneously or sequentially), in a single "combination" formulation, or in simultaneously or sequentially a combination formulation comprising two agents and a second formulation comprising a single agent. [0081] The effective doses of the active agent(s) (of an NMDA (N-methyl-D- aspartate) -Enhancer, and/or Glycine Transporter Inhibitor, and/or D-amino Acid Oxidase Inhibitor (DAAOI)) can vary, depending upon factors such as the condition of the patient, the severity of the symptoms of the disorder, and the manner in which the pharmaceutical composition is administered. In various embodiments, for human patients, the effective unit dose of typical compounds include: DAAOI (e.g., benzoate, range of 50 mg-150 grams), NMDA enhancers (D-serine, range of 50 mg-50 grams; D-alanine, range 1-150 grams), glycine transporter inhibitor (for example: sarcone, range 50 mg-50 grams); including DAAOI+NMDA enhancer, DAAOI+glycine transporter inhibitor, NMDA enhancers +glycine transporter inhibitor or three classes of compound together. [0082] In various embodiments, then, effective doses of each of the active agent(s) ranges from 1 mg, 10 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg, 250 mg, or 500 mg, 300 g, 20Og, 150 g, 100 g, 50 g, 25 g, 1Og, 5 g, or 1 g depending of factors including, but not limited to 150 g. In certain embodiments the compounds and compositions of the present invention can be administered to a patient at dosage levels in the range of about 0.1 to about 1,000 mg per day. For a normal human adult having a body weight of about 70 kilograms, it is estimated that a dosage in the range of about 0.01 to about 100 mg per kilogram of body weight per day is sufficient. The specific dosage used, however, can vary. For example, the dosage can depend on a numbers of factors including the requirements of the patient, the severity of the condition being treated, and the pharmacological activity of the compound being used. The determination of optimum dosages for a particular patient is well-known to those skilled in the art. The amount of active ingredient(s) that may be combined with the carrier materials to produce a single dosage form will vary depending upon the host treated and the particular mode of administration. It will be understood, however, that the specific dose level for any particular patient will depend upon a variety of factors including the activity of the specific compound(s) employed, the age, body weight, general health, sex, diet, time of administration, route of administration, and rate of excretion, drug combination and the severity of the particular disease undergoing therapy.


[0117] In the most accepted animal model of schizophrenia, which tests the sensory gating, we found that combination treatment improve the startle habituation and PPI significantly more than the individual agent alone. . The effect of benzoate was close to combination treatment in habituation.


I have convinced myself of the merits of Cinnamon  (the Cinnamomum verum variety, not the “cassia” variety) for typical people. 

I have been testing it myself for a month and then I will measure the effect.

For people with neurological conditions, it does seem that some clever people at UCLA, and elsewhere, seem to think there is potential.  Their suggested mode of action is not the same as mine, they think DAAOI and I was thinking DJ-1.

Friday 28 November 2014

Is DJ-1 expression negatively associated with severity of Autism? If so, Sodium Benzoate (Cinnamon) may well be beneficial

I do not expect this to be one of my popular posts, but it might deserve to be.

There will be lots of science, but it ends up with a safe potential intervention that can be tried at home.  The good news is that it is inexpensive, tasty and there is already a pretty solid experimental basis for the intervention.

Look in your extended family for relatives with diabetes, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and Parkinson’s Disease.  This might be useful indicator.

The conclusion is to put some cinnamon in your tea or coffee.

Parkinson’s Disease

Two people recently mentioned Parkinson’s disease to me.

Oxidative stress contributes to the cascade leading to dopamine cell degeneration in Parkinson's disease. This oxidative stress is linked to other components of the degenerative process, such as mitochondrial dysfunction, excitotoxicity, nitric oxide toxicity and inflammation.

The familiar motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain.

One example of motor symptoms in Parkinson’s can be the inability to walk unaided across a room.  When a series of parallel lines are placed on the floor, the person is then able to cross the room, unaided.  This story was told to me when I explained how Monty, aged 11 with ASD, would sometimes get “stuck” and be unable to leave a room or walk downstairs.  Treatment with Atorvastatin, in Monty, makes these symptoms go away.

It seems that Statins have also been shown to lower the incidence of Parkinson’s.

Statins Protective Against Parkinson's: More Evidence

Further evidence that statin use is associated with a reduction in risk for Parkinson's disease has come from a population study from Taiwan.
The study, published online in Neurology on July 24, was conducted by a team led by Yen-Chieh Lee, MD, Cathay General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.
In a large population of statin users, they found a lower risk for Parkinson's in those who continued taking lipophilic statins compared with those who discontinued statins upon having reached their cholesterol goal.
Authors of an accompanying editorial conclude, "For those who have to be on statins, it is a comforting thought that there is a potential added advantage of having a lower risk of PD [Parkinson's disease], and possibly other neurologic disorders as well."

Objective: To evaluate the effect of discontinuing statin therapy on incidence of Parkinson disease (PD) in statin users.
Methods: Participants who were free of PD and initiated statin therapy were recruited between 2001 and 2008. We examined the association between discontinuing use of statins with different lipophilicity and the incidence of PD using the Cox regression model with time-varying statin use.
Results: Among the 43,810 statin initiators, the incidence rate for PD was 1.68 and 3.52 per 1,000,000 person-days for lipophilic and hydrophilic statins, respectively. Continuation of lipophilic statins was associated with a decreased risk of PD (hazard ratio [HR] 0.42 [95% confidence interval 0.27–0.64]) as compared with statin discontinuation, which was not modified by comorbidities or medications. There was no association between hydrophilic statins and occurrence of PD. Among lipophilic statins, a significant association was observed for simvastatin (HR 0.23 [0.07–0.73]) and atorvastatin (HR 0.33 [0.17–0.65]), especially in female users (HR 0.11 [0.02–0.80] for simvastatin; HR 0.24 [0.09–0.64] for atorvastatin). As for atorvastatin users, the beneficial effect was seen in the elderly subgroup (HR 0.42 [0.21–0.87]). However, long-term use of statins, either lipophilic or hydrophilic, was not significantly associated with PD in a dose/duration-response relation.
Conclusions: Continuation of lipophilic statin therapy was associated with a decreased incidence of PD as compared to discontinuation in statin users, especially in subgroups of women and elderly. Long-term follow-up study is needed to clarify the potential beneficial role of lipophilic statins in PD.

Comorbidities, Coincidence and Connections

I am no medical expert, but I am good at noticing connections.

I have already decided that there are some interesting conditions that in some way are connected to autism.  These include:-

·        Diabetes
·        Cancer
·        COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

The connection between Parkinson’s disease and autism are:-

·        Oxidative stress
·        Mitochondrial dysfunction
·        Cognitive and behavioral problems (in late stage Parkinson’s)
·        Motor problems (in early stage and onwards in Parkinson’s and mainly in early stage in Autism)

The motor problems in autism are rarely talked about, but in ABA training programs for young children, teaching fine and gross motor skills plays a major role.  In such children, skills that are automatic in typical children can be totally missing.  You then have to teach very basic skills like controlling a crayon, kicking a ball, catching a ball or stacking wooden blocks.

Later on, motor skills seem to become “normal”.  I am amazed to see how Monty, aged 11 with ASD, can now play the piano with all fingers of both hands racing across the ivory.  A few years ago motor skills were clearly impaired. 

This comes back to autism being a dynamic encephalopathy.  An interesting research finding, I noticed recently, was that while oxidative stress appears life-long in autism, mitochondrial dysfunction appears not to be.  In the samples taken from older people with ASD, mitochondria appeared normal, whereas in young people it was typically abnormal.

It is generally accepted that in most people, autistic symptoms seem to moderate with age.  Either they are getting better at managing themselves, or the dysfunctions themselves are moderating with age.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease; in autism only childhood disintegrative disorder seems to be degenerative.

COPD & Parkinson’s

There is a proven connection between COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and Parkinson’s, it is a gene/protein called DJ-1 in COPD, also known as Parkinson disease (autosomal recessive, early onset) 7 or PARK7.

In both conditions DJ-1/PARK7 dysfunction causes a cascade of further events that result in the body losing much of its anti-oxidative defenses.

The protein DJ-1 should act to stabilize NRf2, which is released when there is oxidative stress.  Nrf2 should then activate a large number of anti-oxidant genes that then results in a reaction to the oxidative attack.

The problem is that when DJ-1 is insufficient, Nrf2 never gets as far as activating those anti-oxidant genes and so nothing halts the oxidative attack.

The less DJ-1 expression in a person, the worse their COPD (severe asthma) would be.

As is usually the case in human biology, DJ-1 has numerous other functions.

Note that not only does DJ-1 affect Nrf2, it also is a key negative regulator of PTEN that may be a useful prognostic marker for cancer.

In my earlier post on PTEN and statins we saw that:

Statins up-regulate a known key dysfunctional autism gene, and protein, called PTEN.  I mentioned PTEN in a previous post, since one chemical (Indole-3-carbinol (I3C)) released by eating broccoli also up-regulates PTEN.

From my perspective, upregulating PTEN in autism seems to be helpful.

Parkin, DJ-1, and PINK1 dysfunction in Parkinson’s and Autism

It appears that you need three genetic dysfunctions to develop Parkinson’s disease: parkin, DJ-1, and PINK1. Remarkably very similar dysfunctions seem to exist in autism as well.

As we see in COPD, the DJ-1 dysfunction aggravates the oxidative stress problems.

Note that PINK1, known by its full name, is PTEN-induced putative kinase 1.

The following paper shows how statins affect mitochondria, the role of the Parkinson’s genes and how statins help to clear away the dysfunctional mitochondria that can lead to heart disease.  One can assume that the protective effect of statins against Parkinson’s, must relate to a similar “spring cleaning” of dysfunctional mitochondria, but this time in the brain.

Cells treated with simvastatin also displayed slight mitochondrial depolarization as compared to controls. Induction of autophagy was accompanied by decreases in the pro-growth and proliferation pathways mediated by Akt and mTOR, as well as increases in PTEN. PTEN is linked to mitochondrial quality control via the PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1), which recruits the E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin to mitochondrial membranes in response to depolarization. Parkin, in turn, primes the mitochondria for degradation. Reductions in mitochondria were accompanied by decreasing reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are known to cause oxidative injury and stress. By both depolarizing mitochondria and increasing expression of key autophagic proteins, simvastatin fosters a cellular environment that encourages mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy), which has been linked to cardioprotection. We therefore propose that these mechanisms underlie the cardioprotective effects of statins that are independent of serum cholesterol levels.

For those wondering what is Mitochondrial Autophagy, read this:-

Mitochondrial Autophagy


Efficient and functional mitochondrial networks are essential for myocardial contraction and cardiomyocyte survival. Mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) refers to selective sequestration of mitochondria by autophagosomes, which subsequently deliver them to lysosomes for destruction. This process is essential for myocardial homeostasis and adaptation to stress. Elimination of damaged mitochondria protects against cell death, as well as stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitophagy is a tightly controlled and highly selective process. It is modulated by mitochondrial fission and fusion proteins, BCL-2 family proteins, and the PINK1/Parkin pathway. Recent studies have provided evidence that miRNAs can regulate mitophagy by controlling the expression of essential proteins involved in the process. Disruption of autophagy leads to rapid accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria, and diseases associated with impaired autophagy produce severe cardiomyopathies. Thus, autophagy and mitophagy pathways hold promise as new therapeutic targets for clinical cardiac care.

Parkin is a protein which in humans is encoded by the PARK2 gene.

How loss of function of the parkin protein leads to dopaminergic cell death in this disease is unclear. The prevailing hypothesis is that parkin helps degrade one or more proteins toxic to dopaminergic neurons.

PARK2 has now been linked to autism:-

Researchers first fingered PARK2, or parkinson protein 2, in 1998 in five people with Parkinson's disease. The protein has since been shown to help degrade neurons that accumulate in the brains of individuals with the disorder.
PARK2 is an ubiquitin ligase E3, which targets proteins for degradation in the cell. Another protein in the same family, UBE3A, is associated with both autism and Angelman syndrome.
PARK2 is also believed to function in the mitochondria. Several studies have linked mitochondrial dysfunction to autism, suggesting a basis for PARK2's association with the disorder.

This debilitating neurological disorder is caused by mutation of the E3 ubiquitin ligase (Ube3A), a gene whose mutation has also recently been associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the function of Ube3A in mediating cognitive impairment in individuals with AS and ASDs, as well as its substrates, have been unknown.
Invention: The Greenberg laboratory first demonstrated that neural activity induces Ube3A transcription, and that a decrease in Ube3A expression decreases the plasma membrane expression of, and synaptic transmission through AMPA glutamate receptors (AMPARs). To better understand the role of Ube3A in AS and ASD, the Greenberg lab identified key neural substrates of Ube3A, Arc and Ephexin5, and the mechanisms for their regulation of synaptic transmission. Their findings suggest mechanisms by which Ube3A contributes to cognitive dysfunction in AS and ASD.
Arc: The Greenberg lab demonstrated that disruption of Ube3A activity leads to an increase of Arc and decrease in AMPAR expression at synapses. Drugs that promote AMPAR expression at synapses, such as metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5) antagonists or compounds that inhibit the expression or function or Arc, may reverse symptoms associated with AS and ASD.
Fragile X is a human disorder in which a similar decrease in AMPAR expression at synapses has been demonstrated. This decrease has further been shown to be a result of excessive mGluR5 signaling, resulting in increased Arc translation and excessive AMPAR internalization. Selective mGluR5 antagonists are now entering clinical trials for the treatment of Fragile X, indicating that this type of therapeutic strategy has potential  

Now to understand what goes wrong in Parkinson's

Parkinson’s disease is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder. Clinically, this disease is characterized by bradykinesia, resting tremors, and rigidity due to loss of dopaminergic neurons within the substania nigra section of the ventral midbrain. In the normal state, release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the presynaptic neuron results in signaling in the postsynaptic neuron through D1- and D2-type dopamine receptors. D1 receptors signal through G proteins to activate adenylate cyclase, causing cAMP formation and activation of PKA. D2-type receptors block this signaling by inhibiting adenylate cyclase. Parkinson’s disease can occur through both genetic mutation (familial) and exposure to environmental and neurotoxins (sporadic). Recessively inherited loss-of-function mutations in parkin, DJ-1, and PINK1 cause mitochondrial dysfunction and accumulation of reactive oxidative species (ROS), whereas dominantly inherited missense mutations in α-synuclein and LRRK2 may affect protein degradation pathways, leading to protein aggregation and accumulation of Lewy bodies. Mitochondrial dysfunction and protein aggregation in dopaminergic neurons may be responsible for their premature degeneration. Another common feature of the mutations in α-synuclein, parkin, DJ-1, PINK1, and LRRK2 is the impairment in dopamine release and dopaminergic neurotransmission, which may be an early pathogenic precursor prior to death of dopaminergic neurons. Exposure to environmental and neurotoxins can also cause mitochondrial functional impairment and release of ROS, leading to a number of cellular responses including apoptosis and disruption of protein degradation pathways. There is also an inflammatory component to this disease, resulting from activation of microglia that causes the release of inflammatory cytokines and cell stress. This microglia activation causes apoptosis via the JNK pathway and by blocking the Akt signaling pathway via REDD1. 
DJ-1 and Autism

We know that oxidative stress is life-long in many people with autism.  We know that anti-oxidants like NAC (N-acteyl cysteine) and ALA (alpha lipoic acid) improve autism.  It is suggested that ALA in particular may stabilize mitochondrial disease.

ALA also has an interesting effect on glial (dys)function and I am wondering if NAC has the same effect.

Alpha-lipoic acid effects on brainglial functions accompanying double-stranded RNA antiviral and inflammatory signaling.

Viral products in the brain cause glial cell dysfunction, and are a putative etiologic factor in neuropsychiatric disorders, notably schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's, and autism spectrum. Alpha-lipoic acid (LA) has been proposed as a possible therapeutic neuroprotectant.

One of the reasons there is some much oxidative stress in autism may be that those anti-oxidant genes were never activated.  That would happen if DJ-1 expression was low.

The less DJ-1, the more oxidative stress.  This in turn would do many things:-

·        damage the mitochondria
·        damage the DNA
·        upset the homeostasis of the endocrine (hormone) system 
·        disrupt the developing brain (Purkinje cell loss etc)

The end result is a big mess, but amazingly not a degenerative one.

A quick recap on oxidative stress

How to up regulate DJ-1

Thanks to all the research into Parkinson’s, an interesting therapy is available to upregulate DJ-1.  A food additive, Sodium Benzoate, known as E211 or even NaC7H5O2 has been shown to be effective (in mice).

Rather than taking E211 you can eat cinnamon and let your body metabolize it into Sodium Benzoate.  As long as you take the Ceylon type of Cinnamon and not one of the cheaper ones, even very high consumption seems to be risk free.

In the cheaper cinnamon, called Cassia, or Chinese, high levels of a substance called coumarin can be found.  This can be harmful to the kidneys and liver and there are legal limits on this type of cinnamon.


DJ-1 (PARK7) is a neuroprotective protein that protects cells from oxidative stress. Accordingly, loss-of-function DJ-1 mutations have been linked with a familial form of early onset Parkinson disease. Mechanisms by which DJ-1 level could be enriched in the CNS are poorly understood. Recently we have discovered anti-inflammatory activity of sodium benzoate (NaB), a metabolite of cinnamon and a widely-used food additive. Here we delineate that NaB is also capable of increasing the level of DJ-1 in primary mouse and human astrocytes and human neurons highlighting another novel neuroprotective effect of this compound. Reversal of DJ-1-inducing effect of NaB by mevalonate, farnesyl phosphate, but not cholesterol and ubiquinone, suggests that depletion of intermediates, but not end products, of the mevalonate pathway is involved in the induction of DJ-1 by NaB. Accordingly, either an inhibitor of p21ras farnesyl protein transferase (FPTI) or a dominant-negative mutant of p21ras alone was also able to increase the expression of DJ-1 in astrocytes suggesting an involvement of p21ras in DJ-1 expression. However, an inhibitor of geranyl transferase (GGTI) and a dominant-negative mutant of p21rac had no effect on the expression of DJ-1, indicating the specificity of the effect. Similarly lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an activator of small G proteins, also inhibited the expression of DJ-1, and NaB and FPTI, but not GGTI, abrogated LPS-mediated inhibition. Together, these results suggest that NaB upregulates DJ-1 via modulation of mevalonate metabolites and that p21ras, but not p21rac, is involved in the regulation of DJ-1

Cinnamon is well known for its antioxidant potential.  In other research other compounds within it are seen as the active ones.

Here is a very interesting trial showing the effect of cinnamon on lowering cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

This Indian study looked at the effect of 3g a day of cinnamon taken with tea.  Below are the results from the control group, without type II diabetes.

The results are remarkable.  Good cholesterol (HDL) goes up, bad cholesterol (LDL) goes down, tryglicerides go down.  Glucose levels go down.  All the antioxidant indicators go up.

In table 2 in the full report you can see that the effect on people with diabetes was even better.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a major cause of tumor-related morbidity and mortality worldwide. Recent research suggests that pharmacological intervention using dietary factors that activate the redox sensitive Nrf2/Keap1-ARE signaling pathway may represent a promising strategy for chemoprevention of human cancer including CRC. In our search for dietary Nrf2 activators with potential chemopreventive activity targeting CRC, we have focused our studies on trans-cinnamic aldehyde (cinnamaldeyde, CA), the key flavor compound in cinnamon essential oil. Here we demonstrate that CA and an ethanolic extract (CE) prepared from Cinnamomum cassia bark, standardized for CA content by GC-MS analysis, display equipotent activity as inducers of Nrf2 transcriptional activity. In human colon cancer cells (HCT116, HT29) and non-immortalized primary fetal colon cells (FHC), CA- and CE-treatment upregulated cellular protein levels of Nrf2 and established Nrf2 targets involved in the antioxidant response including heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) and γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS, catalytic subunit). CA- and CE-pretreatment strongly upregulated cellular glutathione levels and protected HCT116 cells against hydrogen peroxide-induced genotoxicity and arsenic-induced oxidative insult. Taken together our data demonstrate that the cinnamon-derived food factor CA is a potent activator of the Nrf2-orchestrated antioxidant response in cultured human epithelial colon cells. CA may therefore represent an underappreciated chemopreventive dietary factor targeting colorectal carcinogenesis.


I think it is fair to say that cinnamon has some very interesting effects in human health, but they are not yet fully understood.

It looks like people with Parkinson’s, COPD, diabetes or high cholesterol could well benefit, for one reason or another.

What is interesting to note is that in some countries the age old herbal remedy for COPD is cinnamon.

I think most people likely would benefit to some extent from cinnamon.  The effective dose is very small, 2 to 4 grams, depending on the study.  

As to the effect in autism, there is only one way to find out.