Is nutrition the future of brain health?

Is nutrition the future of brain health?
“All of the diet and nutrient therapies we study seem quite able to slow down the diseases—and possibly, if done right, even prevent them,” says Dennis Steindler. Credit: Yehrin Tong

We take it for granted that our body can regenerate cells that become injured or simply wear out and die. For most of the 20th century, however, scientists were convinced that one organ—the brain—lacked that ability. Shortly after birth, they thought, our brains had as many neurons as they were ever going to have, and if we lost brain cells because of injury or aging, we were never going to make more of them.

So convinced were scientists of this theory that they stuck with it for decades, despite clear evidence to the contrary—for example, that rats' brain mass increased after they learned to navigate new mazes.

It wasn't until 1998 that neuroscientist Dennis Steindler, then working at the University of Florida, definitively discovered the existence of human neural that could become a variety of different types of —growing on the lining of the brain's internal cavities and in the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped region in the front of the brain associated with memory.

"When they grow, they make copies of themselves, which is unusual," says Steindler. "They make more that are involved in memory, learning and mood function, and have an innate ability to repair damaged tissue."

The finding led to widespread speculation that these stem cells could be used to repair neurons damaged by degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In other cases, however, Steindler found these cells could be part of the problem. "They do try and repair disease and aging," he says. "But when they do that too much, they can lead to brain tumors."

The question was how could these be stimulated to produce more without overproducing and creating tumors—and how could they continue to make cells as they aged?

"Their aging involves many, many gene and protein networks, and to try and get a handle on that influence through a single gene or protein is very difficult," says Steindler. While some drugs have been shown to be effective in stimulating growth of new brain cells, results have been inconsistent.

A few years ago, Steindler began investigating a new angle: nutrition. "Food is medicine," he says. "Nutrition has the ability to affect many of those pathways at the same time."

A Unique Approach

Steindler will continue to explore those pathways as the new director of the Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts.

"When we went looking for a director for our new laboratory, we were looking for a translational scientist who was conducting cutting-edge research related to nutrition and prevention of age-associated cognitive impairments—someone who would bring in new areas of research to the center and help move the field of nutrition and brain disease forward," says Simin Meydani, director of the HNRCA. "I believe we found exactly the right person we are looking for."

Steindler's focus on the link between nutrition and is unique in the field. During his career, he has made a habit of pursuing novel ideas, says his longtime collaborator, Brent Reynolds, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Florida. "Dennis is an incredibly innovative scientist," he says. "He is on the cutting edge of so many things. Sometimes he may take his ideas a little far, but what happens more often than not is the rest of the scientific community catches up with him five years later."

Reynolds was the first to discover the existence of neural stem cells in mice, an important step in debunking the "no-new-neurons" hypothesis that had been in force since the 1930s. He was excited when he heard that Steindler had been able to discover their existence in humans.

"It was a huge step. So often we do things in rodents that don't translate to humans," he says. "When you demonstrate that, you are now saying that everything we've done in rodents is now possible to translate."

Shortly after that discovery, Reynolds was working on a process to isolate neural stem cells and grow them into "neurospheres," large balls of cells that could be implanted into the brain to potentially repair damage, when he saw a presentation by Steindler at a conference outlining exactly the same thing—and Steindler was on track to publish first. The two scientists worked on the paper together, and Steindler later recruited Reynolds to work with him at the University of Florida, where they collaborated on a number of other papers on neural and .

The Role of Inflammation

Reynolds will continue to collaborate with Steindler on his research at Tufts, which will focus on how to retain the ability of these stem cells to repair and regenerate cells as they get older.

"What's become very clear is that the regenerative capacity diminishes as you age," says Reynolds. "The question Dennis will probably ask and answer is how do these nutritional requirements change and how do they tie into the regenerative ability. Once we answer that question, we can ask how we alter nutrition to achieve that."

To home in on those questions, Steindler has focused on the role that inflammation plays in the aging of stem cells, as well as in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Research has shown that inflammation produces small proteins, or cytokines, in brain cells. Two of these types of proteins—amyloid and tau proteins—have been associated with Alzheimer's disease.

"Particular genetic mutations can't process these proteins very well," says Steindler. "The cells try and spit them out to get rid of them, but when they can't do that, the cells themselves can die." When they are able to expel them into the environment in the brain, they can affect other cells, which may not function properly, contributing to Alzheimer's. A similar protein called alpha-synuclein may be associated in a similar way with Parkinson's.

Steindler has focused on the role that inflammation plays in the aging of stem cells, as well as in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

By changing diet and nutrition, patients may be able to limit inflammation of brain tissue and prevent or even reverse these degenerative diseases by giving neural stem cells the ability to heal the damage.

"All of the bioactive components in our diet play a role in how cells can battle this tendency to become inflamed," says Steindler. In particular, he is experimenting with three antioxidants, which he suspects may need to be consumed in higher doses as we age in order to ensure healthy stem cell function—ECGC, found in green tea; curcumin, found in turmeric; and sulforaphane, found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables.

All three of these chemical compounds are currently under investigation at the HNRCA. Simin Meydani has done work on ECGC, finding that it inhibits the spread of T-cells, that can cause some autoimmune disorders. Mohsen Meydani, director of the center's vascular biology lab, has found that curcumin can limit angiogenesis, the spread of blood vessels within both tumors and the fatty tissues that cause tumors to grow more quickly. That property may be helpful in reducing the size of brain tumors.

Star Wars Therapy

In order to test the effect of these various nutrients, and see how they interact with drug therapies, Steindler has pursued a novel technique: creating "avatars" of patients—a term he borrowed from a boy suffering from brain disease who participated in one of his clinical trials.

"He was a Star Wars fan, and asked me to use his brain tissue so other children wouldn't have to experience what he did," says Steindler. "He asked me to create a clone army of his cells to study."

Inspired by the idea, Steindler has pioneered a technique in which a patient's cancerous or neurodegenerative diseased cells, along with their unique immune system and disease profile, are cultured and implanted into mice. These "avatars" are then subjected to various combinations of drug and nutrient therapies to see which are most effective in preventing the spread or recurrence of disease.

The cells "become a surrogate of the patient," Steindler explains. "Instead of studying therapies directly on the patients, we can stay two steps ahead by testing them on the surrogate."

Eventually, Steindler hopes that these techniques can be replicated electronically, distilling a patient's unique chemistry into a data model that can be manipulated on the computer to determine the best course of nutrition. "Eventually these avatars will be patients on a chip," he says. "That's where we are heading."

In the meantime, Steindler is ramping up the laboratory at Tufts to better investigate the properties of these nutritional supplements. He hopes drawing upon the expertise of his colleagues will help determine the most effective changes in diet to attack the inflammation that leads to brain degeneration as well as cancer.

"Truly, Tufts and the HNRCA are leaders in these things," says Steindler, crediting his predecessor at the neuroscience lab, Jean Mayer University Professor Irwin Rosenberg. "I am hoping to collaborate extensively in order to get these new therapeutic reagents into a clinical setting. All of the diet and nutrient therapies we study seem quite able to slow down the diseases—and possibly, if done right, even prevent them."

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Oct 20, 2015
Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations: from atoms to ecosystems

Abstract excerpt: "This atoms to ecosystems model of ecological adaptations links nutrient-dependent epigenetic effects on base pairs and amino acid substitutions to pheromone-controlled changes in the microRNA / messenger RNA balance and chromosomal rearrangements. The nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled changes are required for the thermodynamic regulation of intracellular signaling, which enables biophysically constrained nutrient-dependent protein folding; experience-dependent receptor-mediated behaviors, and organism-level thermoregulation in ever-changing ecological niches and social niches. Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological, social, neurogenic and socio-cognitive niche construction are manifested in increasing organismal..."

Oct 20, 2015
Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model. http://www.ncbi.n...24693353

The 2013 model now links everything known about nutrient-dependent RNA-mediated cell type differentiation to healthy longevity via fixation of amino acid substitutions in the organized genomes of all living genera. It starts with nutrient-dependent base pair changes that link the amino acid substitutions to chromosomal rearrangements and ecological speciation without the pseudoscientific nonsense of neo-Darwinian theories.

For example nutrient-dependent supercoiled DNA prevents virus-driven entropic elasticity from linking the accumulation of viral microRNAs to genomic entropy, which is what occurs when the immune system is constantly subjected to excessive nutrient stress and/or social stress. Eat too much, stress your immune system, get cancer or other virus-driven pathologies.

Oct 20, 2015
Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological adaptations: from atoms to ecosystems

Criticisms of the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled evolutionary model

Oct 21, 2015
See the editor's response to the "Criticisms of the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled evolutionary model" was:

"The 2013 review article by James Vaughn Kohl published in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology and criticized in the above Letter to the Editor was subjected to standard peer review and the revised version was accepted by me after it had been accepted by both reviewers."

The fact that a biologically uninformed science idiot thought he could criticize the model, which links nutritional epigenetics to pharmacogenomics and precision medicine via what is currently known about RNA-mediated events that stabilize organized genomes, should be considered each time Steven Jones (aka Vietvet) cites the "Criticisms."

There is no other mode that links what is currently known about physics, chemistry, biology, and the conserved molecular mechanisms that link the different disciplines via DNA repair to healthy longevity or via viruses to all pathology.

Oct 21, 2015
See also: Application of an RNA amplification method for reliable single-cell transcriptome analysis. http://www.ncbi.n...26345506

In the established context of my detailed model and all current representations of biologically-based cause and effect, Steindler's group seems to be only a few steps away from linking the proliferation of viruses and accumulation of viral microRNAs to genomic entropy that is prevented by nutrient-dependent microRNAs and the conserved molecular mechanisms that link the nutrient-dependent physiology of reproduction to DNA repair via RNA-mediated gene duplication and RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions in all cell types of all individuals of all living genera.

DNA repair is manifested in the morphological and behavioral phenotypes of different species. Fortunately, evolutionary theorists have now begun to realize their neo-Darwinian approach to the gene-centric practice of medicine has caused millions of deaths.

Oct 22, 2015
A better link that describes you: http://www.socioa...ew/24367

a biologically uninformed science idiot thought he could criticize the model
he used science, evidence and it demonstrated, with links, that you were wrong about a lot of things, which is called a refute. this means your credibility is crap. when you try to self aggrandize and then publish techno-jargon without being adequately educated in the lingo, and refuse to accept definitions, then you end up looking like the idiot you are

this is why you have no credibility and can only post to troll on Pop-sci sites with open non-moderated comments... if you tried that in a moderated or monitored site, it would be deleted and you would be banned

Oct 22, 2015
"Combating Evolution to Fight Disease "
See my comments: http://comments.s....1247472

"Inching toward the 3D genome"
See my comment http://comments.s....6217.10

I have at least 100 other posts to moderated "Science" sites and have only ever been banned from participation by pseudoscientists who cannot bear to see their ridiculous theories challenged, since the theories have never been validated by experimental evidence of biologically-based cause and effect.

"[W]hat Haldane, Fisher, Sewell Wright, Hardy, Weinberg et al. did was invent.... Evolution was defined as "changes in gene frequencies in natural populations." The accumulation of genetic mutations was touted to be enough to change one species to another.... Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact." http://www.huffin...211.html

Oct 29, 2015
Perfect Article

Oct 29, 2015
See also: New NASA study reveals origin of organic matter in Apollo lunar samples

Obviously, some people still want you to continue believing that the evolution of your brain began in outer space.

Oct 29, 2015
I have at least 100 other posts to moderated "Science" sites ...ever been banned from participation ...
you're admitting to being a troll & posting pseudoscience/religion, you know!
and you consider it a proud moment to be banned because you can't produce evidence or science?

1- being a troll is not something to be proud of

2- if you are referring to sites like SciMag or even PO, then you are absolutely wrong: neither site is actually moderated

3- most importantly: when you get banned from a science forum (like say: SciForums) it is because of a violation of the rules, like posting PSEUDOSCIENCE or religion (or hate speech like on Myers blog) in a science thread
there are other threads dedicated to religion and pseudoscience, even on SciForums, or you can label them as such

this means, by being banned, you are violating forum rules and a chronic liar

quit posting pseudoscience or religion on science sites and you will not be banned

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