Major news about one of my favorite molecules, l-fucose. In addition to being part of the antigenic structure of the H antigen found in blood group O, fucose is now garnering attention as an important component in learning. Although neurophysiology spends quite a bit of time looking at the neurosynaptic junction (the gap between two nerve cells, where nerve conduction occurs) most of the emphasis is on the neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) that can jump the gap.
However, what goes into holding the synapse together may be as important a factor in cognition and learning as what jumps across the synapse. And that appears to be lectin-like receptors on one side of the nerve synapse which bind to fucose as a ligand on the other.
In other words your nerves have a sweet tooth for fucose.
Reaction in the brain involving fucose skyrocket during periods of intense learning. And human milk is a very rich source of the sugar, with amounts far higher than all other species. The sugar content of human milk varies by ABO blood type and secretor status which makes me want to do a study looking at learning differences along blood group and secretor status in breast fed and bottle fed children.
The fucosyltransferase enzymes FUT1, FUT2 and FUT3 are very intimately involved in determining ABO, secretor and Lewis blood types and recent research has linked serum B12 levels (another important player in proper nerve function) to the FUT2 (secretor) gene.
Fucose and fucosylation have a big role in ontogeny (the origin and the development of an organism from the fertilized egg to its mature form) via it's role in the development of the Lewis X antigen (FUT9) which supports cell-to-cell-adhesion in embryos. Lewis X expression in the brain is in turn controlled by the PAX6 gene, which regulates many elements of nerve growth in addition to forming the architecture of the iris.
The link between PAX6 and Lewis X (FUT9) may explain why a recent study showed that at least some aspects of personality were determined by the genetics of iris formation. Close-up pictures were taken of the study participants' irises, and they also filled out a questionnaire about their personalities. The researchers looked at crypts (pits) and contraction furrows (lines curving around the outer edge of the iris), which are formed when pupils dilate. It was found that those with more crypts were likely to be tender, warm and trusting, while those with more furrows were more likely to be neurotic, impulsive and give in to cravings.
PAX6 is gene that helps regulate embryonic differentiation. PAX6 also has some interesting effects on adrenal and pancreatic function as well as norepinephrine expression in the gut via the enteric nervous system. Maybe there's a future in medicine for the iris after all.
Going forward, I predict that soon the best thing to use in kids who are learning-challenged will not be the usual suspects like Ritalin or SSRIs, but rather glycomic agents from the diet that enhance fucosylation. These drugs do enhance the function or persistence of neurotransmitters, but fucosylation enhancers seem to enhance the stability of the entire neural network. It makes no sense to up-regulate neurotransmitters if you haven't insured that the nerves are holding to each other in the first place.
Of course, most of the old blood typers know that Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosis) is a decent source of fucose.
Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets
We report the unexpected resolution of longstanding schizophrenic symptoms after starting a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. After a review of the literature, possible reasons for this include the metabolic consequences from the elimination of gluten from the diet, and the modulation of the disease of schizophrenia at the cellular level.
Previously, Dohan (Acta Psych Scand 1966, 42(2):125-152) observed a decrease in hospital admissions for schizophrenia in countries that had limited bread consumption during World War II, which suggested a possible relationship between bread and schizophrenia. Early work with lectins clearly showed that the brains of schizophrenics bind lectins differently than the brain tissue of non-schizophrenics, which appears to make sense in that the carbohydrate content of schizophrenic brain tissue (in addition to dementia and a few other illnesses) revealed the existence of spherical deposits in the inner and middle molecular layers of the dentate gyrus in the hippocampal formation which contained fucose, galactose, N-acetyl galactosamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, sialic acid, mannose and chondroitin sulfate; many of these blood group active carbohydrates with known lectin binding affinities (link).
Over the years some of the most stirring letters I've received from book readers have centered around improvements in family members with schizophrenia. Almost all of these letters have been from or about blood type O schizophrenics, which may mean that the nutritional approach to schizophrenia might necessarily differ by foods and blood type. We are now only beginning to understand the effects of tissue glycosylation on the development and maintenance of brain neural networks.
Henry Ford, it is said, commissioned a survey of the car scrap yards of America to find out if there were parts of the Model T Ford which never failed. His inspectors came back with reports of almost every kind of breakdown: axles, brakes, pistons -- all were liable to go wrong. But they drew attention to one notable exception, the kingpins of the scrapped cars invariably had years of life left in them. With ruthless logic Ford concluded that the kingpins on the Model T were too good for their job and ordered that in future they should be made to an inferior specification.
For the automotively challenged, the kingpin is the main pivot in the steering mechanism of a car or other vehicle. Originally this was literally a steel pin on which the moveable, steerable wheel was mounted to the suspension. It is usually made out of metal.
This story, well-known on the internet, was originally told by Nicholas Humphrey in 1976, and often referred to by other biologists including Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins, the latter recounting the story in what is, by far, the most pessimistic chapter ("God's Utility Function") in his book River Out of Eden.
John Hawks, who has an interesting anthropology weblog takes a look at the Henry Ford story, and why evolutionary biologists seem to love it so:
Of course, the truth is natural selection doesn't cut back the quality of functional parts easily, either. Selection also has to overcome fixed costs in order to change populations: costs stemming from pleiotropy, epistasis, and coevolution with other kinds of organisms (e.g. predator-prey relationships, mutualisms, and mimicry). How much selective advantage can come from reducing femur diameter a smidgeon? It can't be very much, and it might easily be outweighed by the manifold costs of changing osteoblast function to accomplish it. In other words, adaptation is constrained by the same sorts of problems that constrain industry. Ruthless efficiency can rarely be maintained in biology or in manufacturing.
But then again, was the story even true?
Barbara Mikkelson over at the Urban Legends website thinks not, but offers an additional insight:
Though the legend is almost always positioned as a "let's screw the consumers" tale, on rare occasion it has been presented as an example of intelligent design."*
It all reminds me of the Edward de Bono books I read as a kid.
* She includes a similar type of anecdote about another engineering triumph, from WWII:
"A proposal was made to armour bombers in the places where the returning planes showed most damage from anti-aircraft fire. One young analyst suggested that instead, the planes should be armoured where the returning bombers showed no damage. He inferred that the planes that did not return were being damaged in the places that the returning planes were not. His suggestion was implemented and an X% reduction in lost planes resulted."
A long time ago I preceptored with a naturopath who was fond of having his handouts typeset by a local printer. He was an older style ‘nature-cure’ type healer, and his handouts contained some very far out stuff. When I asked him why he went to the great expense of having a printer typeset his advice, he replied that ‘when people see something in print, especially a format that they know is not homemade, they take it more seriously.’
Twenty years later we now would appear to know better. The easy availability of laser printers and desktop publishing software can make any would-be Hemingway look the part. Of course there is a price to pay for the ubiquity of it all. Nice-looking documents have become the very essence of banality and reader confidence further eroded by the inclusion of misspellings, bad punctuation and terrible font choices.
Many readers will remember that absolute reverence by which one beheld the evening news in our childhood. Walter Cronkite and The Huntley–Brinkley Report not only acted the part of impartial newscasters; they looked it as well.
Having just seen the most recent Democratic debate on ABC-TV, I am even more convinced that the end is near for what might be called ‘filtered broadcasting.’ Instead of any sort of important discussion about issues which are of paramount importance to this country (and indeed the world) we were treated to a long inquisition about whether wearing an porcelain American flag pin is a sign of patriotism in a two hour long Calvary of he-said, she-said.
In the arts we have recently seen the emergence of a new kind of artist. The conventional record labels, having seen their profits eroded by downloading and lack of consumer interest, can only play by the numbers and hope for another Britney Spears or similar mega-mediocrity. The industry crowns artless (but safe and cute) adolescents “American Idols” when in fact they have demonstrated no skills beyond what one would expect from a decent karaoke bar singer.
Composers and musicians who actually do have something to say have opted instead to release material direct to the public, often with a payment-optional policy. Although this would appear to be financial suicide, surprisingly, many of these ventures have been economically successful.
Three decades ago Steward Brand said ‘information wants to be free.’ Brand’s WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) was a precursor of the Internet, the greatest source of unfiltered information in human history.
When information is free, people get to choose what they want to hear and read about. When it is filtered, news organizations, corporations, professional societies and political parties choose it for them.
Years ago doctors would never think of explaining their premises and motives. To whom? The village blacksmith? What does he know of chemistry? Now consumers can harness the power of the Internet to research their health issues to any depth they desire. Yet most doctors still function in filter mode, thinking that the deck is still stacked in their favor.
Doctors have to learn about everything. A patient has to just learn about what is wrong with himself. You would be surprised by the speed in which a motivated patient can become a virtual expert in their condition.
In my vision of the future we will all become our own ‘aggregators,’ selecting information sources from an abundance of highly specific and single purpose ‘channels.’ Once aggregated into our lives, all these channels will fuse into a Multiverse of realities shared between like-minded individuals.
For example, you’re currently on the ‘Peter D’Adamo Channel.’
This will not stop filtering. Evidence suggests that we all filter out information that we disagree with. In True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, Farhad Manjoo cites an experiment in which smokers and non-smokers could vary the amount of interference in static filled recordings of speeches. When smokers heard a speech about smoking and cancer risk, they did not try to improve the clarity of the recording. But they did push the button to get a clearer version of the recording when a speech was playing that said that there was no link between smoking and cancer. In non-smokers the exact opposite was true.
Maybe I’m just a libertarian (or just an aging hippy) but I would opt for choosing my own filters --versus having information filtered for me—- especially when the filtering is being done by individuals and organizations that I do not trust and for which I have no respect.
You are a collection of cells (literally trillions of them), each with a specific design and function. However, with a few exceptions, your cells all have a basic architectural design. Most of the time they are depicted as looking like a fried egg cooked sunny side up, but in reality they are three dimensional beings, more akin to a golf ball that you’ve cut across its midline. The “white” of our cell model is the body of the cell, and here are found many specialized areas called organelles that do particular jobs, much like our own internal organs have specific jobs as well. The “yolk” of our cell model is called the nucleus, and in this compartment there lies the object of our affections, the chromosomes.
Chromosomes were first discovered at the end of the 19th century by a German biologist named Walther Flemming. Flemming was looking at cells under a microscope and got the idea to use colors to dye the cell to make it easier to see things. The idea must have worked better than anticipated since he at once began to see spaghetti looking things in the nucleus that dyed a very deep color. As is the fashion, he named these entities chromosomes which is Greek for “colored bodies”.
Chromosomes are one of the more dynamic faces of Nature; they have to be, since they are responsible for the passing on of the 'Baton of Life' that we call reproduction. The number of chromosome in the cell nucleus differs somewhat from species to species. We humans have 46 chromosomes; dogs have 78; alligators 32; cabbage plants 18.
Your chromosomes are both the governess and chauffeur of the most important molecule in your body: DNA --which is actually two molecules wrapped around each other. Like any blueprint, DNA needs to be read in order for the work order to be constructed. Now, DNA is a long, long molecule. If it were completely unraveled it would be about six feet long, yet so thin that it would be invisible, since you can easily fit one million cells on the head of a pin. If the entire DNA, in every cell of your body, was stretched out and laid end-to-end in a straight line, it would reach to the sun and back over one thousand times.
I think an effective way of describing the dynamic qualities of the chromosome is to use a few metaphors. My older daughter likes to knit, so we often visit the knitting supply shop in town for fresh yarn. Yarn usually comes wrapped in skeins, a length of yarn wound around a reel. Most yarn comes in lengths of 80-150 yards. One of the nice things about buying yarn this way, rather than just as one long unwound string, is that you can put it under your arm and walk to the car. This is certainly better than tying a knot to the rear bumper and pulled the unwound string all the way home. Thus, the first important lesion of chromosome dynamics; if you’re going to reproduce you’ve got to stuff that entire DNA into a very small, tight package. Chromosomes are just that: tight packages of DNA.
On the other hand, it is very difficult, if not downright impossible to knit anything if the skein of yarn still has the paper label wrapped around it. In order to use the yarn, you have to unwind it. That’s the formula: when the cell needs to use DNA to get information about how to make a protein, it has to unwind it. When it needs to reproduce, or turn off the DNA information flow, it needs to concentrate and condense it.
How this occurs is rather wondrous, and will be the subject of much discussion later on when we talk about how you can modify your genetic destiny, but for now we’ll just stick to the basics. DNA is packaged and concentrated by special proteins termed histones. This concentrated DNA is called chromatin, which is the DNA plus the histones that package DNA within the cell nucleus. Chromatin structure is also relevant to DNA replication and DNA repair.
Histones are very cool bead-like proteins that spool the DNA in a way that makes it either tighter or looser, sort of like the cardboard around which our skein of yarn is wrapped. Histones respond to changes in their structure by tightening the DNA wrap or loosening it. Whenever a cell needs to access the genetic information encoded in its DNA, the histones on the section of the DNA that is needed undergo a chemical reaction called acetylation by which a molecule called an acetyl group is stuck on the histones, causing them to relax and unravel. When business is concluded for the day, special enzymes come along and chomp off the acetyl group cause the histones to become de-acetylated, which makes them tighten up again, sending the DNA in the region back to its resting state. Think of it like this; when your DNA needs to work its histones chow down on acetyl groups for breakfast and they do yoga; when it needs to reproduce or shut down, the histones lift weights --the strain of which causes the acetyl group to pop out of their mouths.
Make sure that you’ve mastered the last paragraph, because much of the very cool stuff dealing with how you can modify gene functions pretty much requires that you know this stuff. By the way, this is very, very cutting edge material; only until recent times have we understood this mechanism, and of supremely paramount importance, that it is used by the environment to influence gene function and that influence, for either good or bad, can be passed on as inheritance.
Scientists have given each human chromosome a number, according to its size; thus chromosome number 1 is the largest, then number 2, etc. Chromosomes come in pairs, one from each parent. So there are 23 pairs, for a total of 46 in us humans. Numbers 1-22 are non-sex chromosomes called autosomes, and pair 23 contains the X and Y sex chromosomes.
In the few minutes it has taken to read up to here, this, around 400 million of your red blood cells were depleted and replaced, consistent with the set of genetic instructions contained in your DNA.
QUESTION: I am a type A and have been trying to incorporate more of the recommended grains. I purchased amaranth and cooked as described however, it turned into a slimy goo. Is this the way it is supposed to be?
ANSWER: Amaranth is a broad-leafed plant which produces multi-headed flowerets containing grain-like seed of extremely high nutritional value. The tiny seeds are a creamy tan in color and are about 1/32" in diameter. Each plant produces 40,000-60,000 seeds. The amaranth seeds are used in their whole grain form, milled into flour or puffed into miniature kernels.
For centuries, the Aztecs and American Indians have known the benefits and diverse uses for amaranth.
Not only is amaranth higher in protein than most commonly used grains, that protein, containing high levels of lysine and methionine, is better balanced and more complete. Amaranth, with 13-19% protein, scores closer to a perfect 100 on a theoretical protein score chart than do other grains. For example, amaranth's 75 is significantly higher than wheat at 56.9, corn at 44, soybeans at 68 or even cow's milk at 72.5.
Amaranth possesses a potent lectin that has been shown to identify colon cancer cells which are in the early stages of mutation.(1) As such a diet high in amaranth may well be protective against this common cancer, which is known to have a significantly higher incidence in blood group A.
Here's a great recipe that uses amaranth flour to make a grain free bread:
Grain-Free Boston Brown Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons amaranth flour 1/4 cup arrowroot 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger 1/2 cup currants 1/2 cup walnuts 3/4 cup boiling unsweetened fruit juice or water 1/4 cup honey or molasses 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Generously oil a 1-quart mold or 1 pound coffee can. Fill a Dutch oven or stockpot with about 5 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil while you prepare the batter.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, arrowroot, baking soda and ginger. Stir in the currants.
In a blender, grind the walnuts to a fine powder. Add the juice or water, and blend 20 seconds. If the ingredients in the blender don't reach the 1 -cup mark, add a little more liquid. With the blender running on low, add the honey or molasses and lemon juice.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour bowl. Stir quickly to blend; do not overmix. Transfer to the prepared mold orcan. Cover with a square of foil or wax paper; tie the wax paper securely with a piece of string.
Place the mold in the boiling water. (It should come halfway up the sides.) Cover the pot tightly, and steam for 2 hours over medium-low heat. Do not remove the cover during that time.
Remove the mold from the pot. Cool the bread in the mold for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. For the best results, cut with a serated knife with a gentle sawing motion.
Variations: Replace the honey or molasses with 1/3 cup maple syrup. Instead of the currants, use dried unsweetened pineapple, apples, prunes or ther dried fruit; use the corresponding juice as the liquid.
(1)Boland CR, Chen YF, Rinderle SJ, Resau JH, Luk GD, Lynch HT. Use of the lectin from Amaranthus caudatus as a histochemical probe of proliferating colonic epithelial cells. Cancer Res. 1991 Jan 15;51(2):657-65.