As the epidemic of Alzheimer’s grows, scientists search for whatever therapy options arise out of the ongoing investigations into root causes. Scientists search for the complex and sophisticated, but sometimes simple possibilities poke their heads up and surprise. Researchers recognized alterations in the metabolic activity of early Alzheimer’s and asked themselves if this could contribute to the cognitive symptoms.
Further study showed that this metabolic slowdown in astrocytes (brain cells which maintain the blood brain barrier) led to a lower production of L-serine. This amino acid is used in the production of D-serine which acts as a stimulator of NMDA receptors in the brain. These receptors are important in the development of memory.
In the mouse models, researchers found that supplying additional L-serine could restore impaired memory functions. These mice were bred and developed to model Alzheimer’s in humans. They had memory impairment comparable to human patients with the disease. They also noted that impairment of the L-serine production pathway in hippocampal cells produced similar memory and neural plasticity (ability of brain to adapt) impairment. This amino acid, L-serine, improved brain function in both situations.
Research like this tells us that nutrition and our metabolism play a major role in degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. However, they do not yet fully answer how we use this information or nutritional therapies to their full extent in treating our patients. We have much to learn, but that does not mean we can’t proceed with therapies for current patients when those therapies are relatively safe.
Functional medicine doctors like myself have to discern starting points while we wait for clearer guidance from research. We must consider how much L-serine might be enough to produce an effect. We must consider how we might improve metabolism so the brain cells make L-serine on their own. We must consider how much serine might be a bad thing, an overdose. Most of the time, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. We don’t want to hurt while we try to heal.
At Sanctuary, we will consider how to translate this research into actionable patient care. At the very least we guide patients towards low inflammatory diets which improve brain metabolism. We also consider patient’s protein intake to be sure they have adequate protein not just for tissue maintenance or muscle building, but also for detoxification and other vital processes. These are just a few of the ways we help patients move towards healthier more abundant lives.
Juliette Le Douce, Marianne Maugard, Julien Veran, Marco Matos, Pierrick Jégo, Pierre-Antoine Vigneron, Emilie Faivre, Xavier Toussay, Michel Vandenberghe, Yaël Balbastre, Juliette Piquet, Elvire Guiot, Nguyet Thuy Tran, Myriam Taverna, Stéphane Marinesco, Ayumi Koyanagi, Shigeki Furuya, Mylène Gaudin-Guérif, Sébastien Goutal, Aurélie Ghettas, Alain Pruvost, Alexis-Pierre Bemelmans, Marie-Claude Gaillard, Karine Cambon, Lev Stimmer, Véronique Sazdovitch, Charles Duyckaerts, Graham Knott, Anne-Sophie Hérard, Thierry Delzescaux, Philippe Hantraye, Emmanuel Brouillet, Bruno Cauli, Stéphane H.R. Oliet, Aude Panatier, Gilles Bonvento. Impairment of Glycolysis-Derived l-Serine Production in Astrocytes Contributes to Cognitive Deficits in Alzheimer’s Disease. Cell Metabolism, 2020; 31 (3): 503 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2020.02.004
Thanks to Science Daily:
CNRS. “Alzheimer’s: Can an amino acid help restore memories?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200303113357.htm
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.