Epigenetic changes may also be involved in Covid19 or LongCovid

Epigenetic changes may be involved in Covid19 and LongCovid, which might be able to be changed back with the addition of plenty of methyl donor vitamins. People with methylation genetic alleles would be more at risk for epigenetic changes to DNA or actin protein filaments. Actin are semi flexible proteins in a double helix shape which support the fluid and organelles inside of cells and around cells and organs of our bodies. Actin also is involved in guiding the work of DNA replication and growth and development of cells or infants.

Methylation is the addition of a methyl group – one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms, to genes, or actin filaments. A methylated gene is not active for encoding proteins while a demethylated gene is available to be transcribed into a messenger mRNA to be made into a matching protein. Actin filaments are a double helix shape like DNA but do other functions throughout our body. Some have methyl groups also that seem to be essential for proper function of the actin protein whether in muscle contraction or in guiding chemicals within cells to make DNA or do other work. Actin filaments add structure to the jelly like fluid around and in cells and may tether chemicals in place for chemical reactions or guide cellular organization during growth and development.

Actin may be involved with energy fields of our body along with microtubules also, but that is not discussed in greater detail in this post (more information about quantum energy fields and actin is included in Cracking Nature’s Code (2019) (1), and in several posts on another site of mine first in the series, 2nd, 3rd, 4th).

Viral infection and epigenetic changes with a focus on Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and possible dietary and lifestyle changes that may help reverse epigenetic changes is the focus of this post – which got long. It is also available as a section of this document that includes the series on Mast Cells and Histamine. Current standard of treatment for patients with POTS symptoms may leave them unwell for years – a few get better more rapidly. I got better on my own within a few months – twice. More about possible strategies for improvement of epigenetic changes will be included later in the post. More about the epigenetics involved in POTS is included in the Genetics/Epigenetics chapter of my book draft which is available on a platform where you can get an e-copy early (minimum price Free, Leanpub/Tipping The Clock Toward Health) and then be informed of updates with an email subscription.

Viral infection can cause Epigenetic changes.

Bacterial (Pacis et al., 2015, 2) and viral infection (Lichinchi et al., 2016, 3) directly impact methylation patterns, most likely orchestrated by actin since it is universally hi-jacked in viral infectivity (Cudmore et al. 1997, 4; Ohkawa and Volkman, 1999, 5; Lu et al., 2004, 6; Marek et al., 2011, 7).

page 34, JB Head, PhD, Cracking Nature’s Code (2019) (1)

I found I have methylation gene alleles in a genetic screening (post: Methylation Cycle Defects – in me – genetic screening “for research purposes only”). Since finding out I stopped taking standard supplements of B12 and folic acid because they are not methylated, not bioactive. I take methyl B12 & methyl folate supplements now. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) (9) has been a problem for me in past years a couple times and I got better. Symptoms include a rapid heart rate, tachycardia, and feeling faint or blacking out, especially when getting up quickly from a seated or laying down position to standing. (9) I have heard anecdotal reports of it being a symptom for some LongCovid survivors who had never had the problem before.

To slow the rapid heart rate during an episode I found it helpful to stop and sit or lay down with my feet above my heart if possible and just wait a couple minutes for the rapid heart rate to slow again. Continuing to exercise would make the rapid heart rate worse. Preventing the faintness upon rapidly getting up required trying to remember to slow down and have a support ready to hold if I felt wobbly. I did faint once, odd to find yourself on the floor unexpectedly.

POTS has been found to potentially involve a genetic difference in the norepinephrine transporter gene (SLC6A2) sequence and it can also be an epigenetic problem with links to excess formaldehyde. (9) Formaldehyde can donate methyl groups to DNA that normally would be unmethylated – active. (10) Methylation of DNA is a little like a on/off switch for genes, or the cap on bottle – add the methyl groups and the DNA gene is inactive.

Formaldehyde as a methyl donor for the methylation of DNA, RNA, and histone acts as an epigenetic factor participating in the reversible and dynamic methylation. DNA demethylation elicits formaldehyde generation in the dividing cells and post-mitotic neurons.” (10) Memory formation involves methylation of DNA and cognitive impairment in older adults is associated with increased internal formaldehyde levels (self-made) and demethylation of DNA. Use of nutrients to remove formaldehyde helped improve memory in an animal based study. (10)

Formaldehyde can be prevalent in secondhand or thirdhand smoke in enclosed rooms, or smog, or we make our own during normal metabolism, and physical or emotional stress conditions may cause an increase, as well as the level potentially increasing in older adults. (11) Elevated levels of formaldehyde within cells causes more breakdown of sugar for energy and increased removal of an antioxidant out of the brain cells, which may increase risk for cognitive damage. “As excess formaldehyde accelerates glycolysis and glutathione export in neural cells, formaldehyde‐induced alterations in brain metabolism and oxidative stress may contribute to the pathological progression of neurodegenerative disorders.” (11)

Formaldehyde is very reactive and can use the methyl group to form links between protein groups or parts that wouldn’t normally be linked – like bungee cords holding parts together in places that would be separate in normal function. (11) Formaldehyde is used with tissue samples to preserve material for viewing under a microscope. Studies of the effect of formaldehyde on the actin protein of live cells that were low on blood sugar found that modifications to the protein did occur – the authors suggest any prior research on the actin protein in formaldehyde treated samples may be inaccurate. (12) Take home point – formaldehyde is not good for our brain cells and may effect the protein of our brain cytoskeleton structure. (12) Protein tangles in brain cells are associated with dementia and autism.

What is a cytoskeleton? We are mostly water, so how do we walk around? With a balance in tension between string like ligaments and muscles and rod like bones of our skeleton. Within the cellular environment, inside and outside the cell membrane – the tent wall, there are rod like microtubules and string like actin protein that is more flexible, it can change shape but isn’t stretchy as much as structurally able to modify in shape. Actin is a double helix, two spirals like DNA except without the ladder like steps joining the two lengths of protein. When force is applied the double helix can get a little longer or shorter as the coils compress or lengthen slightly – tensile strength – and the protein gets stiffer from a side to side direction – torsion – and is less flexible along the length, less able to bend sideways. (13)

The actin protein may act as torsion sensors – is the environment changing in pressure around that section of the protein length – from increased fluid or gas? How full is the balloon like membrane? (14) Channels in a membrane will open and start to leak rather than letting the membrane burst like an overfull balloon. This may seem like a silly discussion – however it is your brain and organs – leaking is better than bursting. Leaking membranes will release fluid and some types of chemicals while a bursting open, as when viral replication is complete and the virus exit a cell, the membrane bursts and all the remaining chemicals in the cell flood into the surrounding cytoskeleton and can cause inflammatory damage to surrounding cells.

These flexible yet firm cytoskeleton actin filaments also may act like guidelines for directing traffic or tethering organelles in place for activity such as replication of DNA during cell division (one cell doubles its DNA and then divides into two cells). Too much of the proteins within a cell nucleus will prevent DNA replication rather than guiding it. (15) Actin is also involved in muscle fiber motion. The double helix structure can also be methylated with methyl groups doing an unknown but critical function. Loss of methylation of actin in one location is associated with cancer and autism spectrum disorders, (16), loss of it in another location along the protein chain is associated with muscle changes that cause female animals to have delivery problems and fewer babies. (17, 18)

So actin is important stringy protein that effects muscle power, cell division, and the brain – and formaldehyde can cause demethylation of DNA, likely it can cause demethylation of actin also which may lead to autism spectrum disorders, cancer, and muscle problems that can affect a healthy delivery of infants (in an animal study). The visual – we want our jelly like insides to have a strong yet flexible tent membrane, tent poles (microtubules), and tie downs (actin) – without having so many tie downs it starts looking like a haunted house full of cobwebs. The amyloid beta protein associated with Alzheimer’s dementia and autism may be protective against a low level infection (post: Magnesium might help protect against beta amyloid placques) but also may increase changes in actin stress fibers (24) and an excess seems to add to chronic inflammatory damage over time.

How do we achieve this? Healthy actin?

It may help promote appropriate methylation of DNA and actin to have adequate antioxidants and methyl donor nutrients in our diet, to reduce oxidative stress chemicals and provide adequate methylation to DNA and actin. Avoiding excessive physical and emotional stress may also be an important strategy, so we aren’t embalming ourselves with self produced formaldehyde (the mummy in the haunted house being our own brain).

We also want to avoid formaldehyde in our environment, which would include improving air quality, especially during sleep hours when our body is focused on detoxification of the brain. Parkinson’s Disease is another chronic condition that may involve epigenetic changes and reducing formaldehyde exposure may be protective. More information is in this post with a link to a longer post about formaldehyde sources: The Cholinergic System

Increasing methyl donor vitamin rich foods and/or supplements should focus on the methylated form if unsure whether there is a genetic allele problem causing lack of methylation.

Methyl groups are important for numerous cellular functions such as DNA methylation, phosphatidylcholine synthesis, and protein synthesis. The methyl group can directly be delivered by dietary methyl donors, including methionine, folate, betaine, and choline.” … “Studies that simulated methyl-deficient diets reported disturbances in energy metabolism and protein synthesis in the liver, fatty liver, or muscle disorders.” … “Hypomethylation has a wide spectrum of effects that include genetic, epigenetic, and metabolic alterations.” (8)

Gastrointestinal problems have been found to be common among patients with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) with malfunction or slowing, dysmotility, of the smooth muscle lining of the intestinal tract. “Case study 1: A 20-year-old woman presented to clinic for further evaluation of a several year history of fullness and epigastric discomfort associated with eating and irregular bowel habits. Her weight was stable. She also described frequent migraine headaches, episodic palpitations and lightheadedness with progressively increasing episodes of syncope. A systems review was notable for profound fatigue, dry eyes and mouth and intermittent flushing and pruritus.” (19) The patient’s symptoms include many in common with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, however testing for mast cell activation was normal. Patients whose symptoms followed a viral infection tend to get better more often than patients with a family history of POTS. (19)  

A number of chronic conditions are frequently seen in patients with POTS and contribute to symptom burden and reduced quality of life. Common comorbidities include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, and migraine headaches. Other unique conditions that seem to occur with increased frequency in POTS are autoimmunity, the hypermobile form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (HM-EDS), and mast cell activation disorder (MCAD).” (19)  

“Unlike mastocytosis, idiopathic mast cell activation [MCAD] occurs in the absence of mast cell proliferation and with episodic accumulation of mast cell mediators in the plasma or urine, usually present when symptomatic. Patients with MCAD typically present with episodic “attacks” of flushing, urticaria and pruritus accompanied by lightheadedness, dizziness, dyspnea, nausea, headache, diarrhea, and/or syncope; symptoms representative of the hyperadrenergic type of POTS with biochemical evidence of MCAD (20).” (19)

The patient in case study 2 had ongoing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss continuing for years following a viral infection. She was found to have deficiency in iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 and gastroparesis (slow or little intestinal muscle action). Intravenous iron and B12 were provided and an oral zinc supplement. Nutrient levels improved however the GI symptoms and weight loss continued and the patient was given tube feedings which improved weight, however some intolerance to the tube feedings continued and abdominal pain persisted. (19)  

If demethylation of actin protein in the muscle tissue of the intestinal wall was a problem for the patient in case study 2, then it may have been a factor in the gastroparesis. Genetic screening for methylation defects is not mentioned. Supplements of B12 are often an unmethylated form, cyanocobalamin, and which include cyanide. (21) In a study of 12 patients by Huang et al, (22): “Disturbances in GI motility were found to involve not only the stomach, but also multiple segments of the gut spanning the esophagus to the anus.” (19) The commonly used treatments for GI symptoms associated with POTS (see Table 5) do not include nutrients and do include proton pump inhibitors, (19),  a medication that takes the place of magnesium as a calcium channel blocker, and which may lead to worse magnesium deficiency for some people, a genetic difference may be involved. See post: Original Prilosec Warning, edited.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) may occur along with GI problems and lead to fat and carbohydrate digestion and absorption problems and bloating from excessive bacterial growth. Changes in diet due to the discomfort are common in patients with POTS and these more severe GI symptoms and which may lead to deficiencies in fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Megaloblastic anemia may result from deficiencies in iron, folate and vitamin B12. (19) Sulfate deficiency may be an underlying factor (23) and providing Epsom salt soaks of the lower legs and feet, or in a bath one to two times a week might help by providing a topically absorbed form of magnesium and sulfate. See post: To have optimal Magnesium needs Protein and Phospholipids too.

Zinc is also involved in DNA methylation and deficiency of the trace mineral can lead to epigenetic changes and gene transcription problems. Zinc is needed along with actin and other proteins to tell the cell nucleus and cell which genes to make into mRNA to be encoded into a protein. “Accumulating evidence has demonstrated that several key enzymes and zinc finger proteins with zinc atom(s) in the reactive center and binding site play important roles in DNA methylation and histone modifications. Therefore, zinc deficiency may disrupt the functions of these enzymes and proteins and result in epigenetic dysregulation. Furthermore, zinc deficiency may enhance inflammatory response and subsequently alter DNA methylation status of the genes involved in inflammation.” (20) Also see posts: Zinc – big news, CoV and other illness related, and Zinc, cancer, and bitter taste receptors.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Reference List

  1. JB Head, PhD, Cracking Nature’s Code: The Potential Answer to Everything. (Balboa Press, Bloomington, IN, 2019) https://www.balboapress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/792280-cracking-natures-code
  2. Pacis A, Tailleux L, Morin AM, et al., Bacterial infection remodels the DNA methylation landscape of human dendritic cells. Genome Res 2015. 25: 1801-1811 https://doi.org/10.1101/gr.192005.115 https://genome.cshlp.org/content/25/12/1801
  3. Lichinchi G, Zhao BS, Wu Y, et al. Dynamics of Human and Viral RNA Methylation during Zika Virus Infection. Cell Host Microbe. 2016;20(5):666-673. doi:10.1016/j.chom.2016.10.002 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5155635/
  4. Cudmore S, Reckmann I, Way M. (1997). Viral manipulations of the actin cytoskeleton. Trends in microbiology. 5. 142-8. 10.1016/S0966-842X(97)01011-1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/14077627_Viral_manipulations_of_the_actin_cytoskeleton
  5. Ohkawa T, Volkman LE, Nuclear F-Actin Is Required for AcMNPV Nucleocapsid Morphogenesis, Virology, Vol 264, Issue 1, 1999, Pages 1-4, ISSN 0042-6822, https://doi.org/10.1006/viro.1999.0008. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042682299900089
  6. Lu, S., Ge, G. & Qi, Y. Ha-VP39 binding to actin and the influence of F-actin on assembly of progeny virions. Arch Virol149, 2187–2198 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00705-004-0361-4 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00705-004-0361-4
  7. Marek M, Merten OW, Galibert L, Vlak JM, van Oers MM. Baculovirus VP80 protein and the F-actin cytoskeleton interact and connect the viral replication factory with the nuclear periphery. J Virol. 2011;85(11):5350-5362. doi:10.1128/JVI.00035-11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3094977/
  8. Obeid R. The metabolic burden of methyl donor deficiency with focus on the betaine homocysteine methyltransferase pathway. Nutrients. 2013;5(9):3481-3495. Published 2013 Sep 9. doi:10.3390/nu5093481 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3798916/
  9. Richard Bayles, Harikrishnan KN, Elisabeth Lambert, et al., Epigenetic Modification of the Norepinephrine Transporter Gene in Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2012;32:1910–1916 https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.111.244343 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/atvbaha.111.244343
  10. Su, Tao & He, Rong-Qiao. (2017). Formaldehyde Playing a Role in (De)methylation for Memory. 10.1007/978-94-024-1177-5_3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320523716_Formaldehyde_Playing_a_Role_in_Demethylation_for_Memory
  11. Ketki Tulpule Ralf Dringen, Formaldehyde in brain: an overlooked player in neurodegeneration?, J. Neurochem. (2013) 127, 7– 21 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jnc.12356
  12. Vasicova P, Rinnerthaler M, Haskova D, et al. Formaldehyde fixation is detrimental to actin cables in glucose-depleted S. cerevisiae cells. Microb Cell. 2016;3(5):206-214. Published 2016 Apr 12. doi:10.15698/mic2016.05.499 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5349148/
  13. Effect of tensile force on the mechanical behavior of actin filaments. J Biomechanics (2011), 44(9): 1776-1781, 2011-06-03 , https://repository.kulib.kyoto-u.ac.jp/dspace/handle/2433/152437 https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/39280196.pdf
  14. Hayakawa K, Tatsumi H, Sokabe M. Actin filaments function as a tension sensor by tension-dependent binding of cofilin to the filament. J Cell Biol. 2011;195(5):721-727. doi:10.1083/jcb.201102039 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257564/
  15. Hu, X., Liu, Z.Z., Chen, X. et al. MKL1-actin pathway restricts chromatin accessibility and prevents mature pluripotency activation. Nat Commun10, 1695 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09636-6 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09636-6
  16. Seervai RNH, Jangid RK, Karki M, et al., The Huntingtin-interacting protein SETD2/HYPB is an actin lysine methyltransferase. Science Advances, 02 OCT 2020 : EABB7854 SETD2 regulates actin dynamics and cell migration via methylation of actin at Lys68 in a cellular complex containing Huntingtin. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/40/eabb7854?Disruption of the SETD2-HTT-HIP1R axis inhibits actin methylation, causes defects in actin polymerization, and impairs cell migration. Together, these data identify SETD2 as a previously unknown HTT effector regulating methylation and polymerization of actin filaments and provide new avenues for understanding how defects in SETD2 and HTT drive disease via aberrant cytoskeletal methylation.“… “Loss of SETD2 and the H3K36me3 chromatin mark is embryonic lethal in Drosophila (7) and mice (8), and SETD2 defects have been linked to several diseases, including cancer (911) and autism spectrum disorder (1214).”
  17. Wilkinson, A.W., Diep, J., Dai, S. et al. SETD3 is an actin histidine methyltransferase that prevents primary dystocia. Nature 565, 372–376 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0821-8, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0821-8 lack of the methylation at histidine 73 seems to interfere with muscles and causes the genetically different animals to have fewer babies due to maternal delivery problems. Graphic from the article shows a CH3 methyl group being added to an actin filament at Histidine 73: https://twitter.com/anandb4/status/1073255833813671937?s=20
  18. Kwiatkowski S, Seliga AK, Veiga-da-Cunha M, et al., SETD3 protein is the actin-specific histidine N-methyltransferase. bioRxiv 266882; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/266882Now published in eLife doi: 10.7554/elife.37921 https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/266882v1?platform=hootsuiteFinally, Setd3-deficient HAP1 cells were devoid of methylated H73 in β-actin and exhibited phenotypic changes, including a decrease in F-actin content and an increased glycolytic activity.
  19. DiBaise JK, Lunsford TN, Harris LA, Nutrition Issues in Gastroenterology, Series #187: The POTS (Postural Tachycardia Syndrome) Epidemic: Hydration and Nutrition Issues. June 2019, Practical Gastro, Vol XLIII, Issue 6 https://practicalgastro.com/2019/10/14/the-pots-postural-tachycardia-syndrome-epidemic-hydration-and-nutrition-issues/
  20. Gu H.F., Zhang X. (2017) Zinc Deficiency and Epigenetics. In: Preedy V., Patel V. (eds) Handbook of Famine, Starvation, and Nutrient Deprivation. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-40007-5_80-1 https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-40007-5_80-1
  21. Dody Chiropractic, Why Do Vitamin B12 Supplements Contain Cyanide?, dodychiro.com,  https://www.dodychiro.com/why-do-vitamin-b12-supplements-contain-cyanide/
  22. Huang RJ, Chun CL, Friday K, et al. Manometric abnormalities in the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome: a case series. Dig Dis Sci 2013;58:3207-3211 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24068608/
  23. Elliot Overton, Sulfate IV: Chronic SIBO/Gut Dysbiosis As A Protective Adaptation To Supply Sulfate. July 21, 2018, Eonutrition.co.uk, https://www.eonutrition.co.uk/post/sulfate-iv-chronic-sibo-gut-dysbiosis-as-a-protective-adaptation-to-supply-sulfate 
  24. Song C, Perides G, Wang D, Liu YF. beta-Amyloid peptide induces formation of actin stress fibers through p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. J Neurochem. 2002 Nov;83(4):828-36. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2002.01182.x. PMID: 12421354. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12421354/
  25. Frederic Dorandeu, Guilhem Calas, Gregory Dal Bo, Raafat Fares, Chapter 36 – Models of Chemically-Induced Acute Seizures and Epilepsy: Toxic Compounds and Drugs of Addiction, Editor(s): Asla Pitkänen, Paul S. Buckmaster, Aristea S. Galanopoulou, Solomon L. Moshé, Models of Seizures and Epilepsy (Second Edition),Academic Press, 2017, Pages 529-551, ISBN 9780128040669, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-804066-9.00037-7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128040669000377Alterations of the neuronal cytoskeleton, and more precisely disruption of actin dynamics, seem then to contribute to changes in brain excitability, but the mechanisms leading to these changes remain still unresolved (Spence and Soderling, 2015).” Excerpt viewable in F-actin, ScienceDirect, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/f-actin

Artemisinin, arteannuin-B, sgp130Fc and COVID-19

I’m more of a blogger, or early Christmas present giver, than may be ideal for a book author. I’ve been working on a section of my new book that might be beneficial for SARS-CoV-2 prevention and COVID-19 treatment. It may also help explain what makes some people more susceptible for developing severe COVID-19 illness rather than remaining asymptomatic as others who test positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The book is in very early stages but is on a platform where you can get an e-copy early (minimum price Free, Leanpub/Tipping The Clock Toward Health) and then be informed of updates with an email subscription. I’m copying the artemisinin section here in case it may be helpful. The theme of the book is not CoV specific so the excerpt is also including it within a larger topic.

The too long;didn’t read – a different extract of wormwood, arteannuin-B, may be a more effective anti-viral and anti-inflammatory, than the artemisinin; while the artemisinin may help with a chronic anemia of inflammation type iron overload problem, which may occur with COVID-19 recovery or when the illness is severe. Artemisinin has also been found useful for autoimmune disease and possibly as a cancer treatment. The bigger CoV specific information is a theory about interleuken-6 (IL-6) and a genetic difference that may explain why some people can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus – their immune system doesn’t overreact to IL-6 – and for those more at risk for over-reacting a protein our body normally makes (sgp130Fc) may be an effective treatment because it would just be needed in the overactive amount (five times the normal level).

Merry Christmas – I never could save a present I bought early.

Autoimmune Disease and other Chronic conditions

What if you are feeling so sick that nothing seems cheerful? There are no guarantees that eating healthier will be a cure-all, however you don’t know without trying and some symptom relief might be possible at least. Giving time a chance to help may also help. It can take seven days for the intestinal lining to start to heal and longer for most other areas of the body. Take care of your brain because most types of brain cells do not get replaced regularly the way that cells throughout the rest of the body are retired and replaced with new cells. The advantage in the foods and phytonutrients that tip the body away from inflammatory pathways and towards the production of antioxidants and increased immune function is modulation – moderation.

Immunomodulators and other types of modulating chemicals can shift the activity slightly towards more active or less active. An overactive immune system can also be dangerous. Modulation can be moderate – just the right amount of activity. The healing foods and phytonutrients may help moderately increase immune activity without over activating it into an autoimmune level of action. And they may moderately inhibit the inflammatory pathways without suppressing them totally as may occur with immunosuppressive drugs. During an infection we need the inflammatory pathways but we do not need an overactive response.

Too many inflammatory chemicals can lead to their attacking our healthy body cells in an immune response called a Cytokine Storm or Sepsis Shock. An autoimmune over-reaction may involve molecular mimicry where a food protein or other substance that is similar to our own body’s chemicals sets off an allergic type of immune response against the body chemical, not just the dietary protein.

Wormwood, Artemisia annua, an anti-malarial herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and source of Artemisinin and arteannuin-B .

Wormwood is a medicinal herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). An extract of it is used to treat malaria. Artemisinin, the extract, has also been found to help modulate the immune system, which may be helpful for the treatment of autoimmune disease. Derivatives of artemisinin have also been studied for use as antiviral and anticancer treatments. (52⁸⁷) White blood cells can help identify, kill, and remove infected, damaged, or cancerous cells in a process called autophagy however the response can also become overactive in the case of autoimmune disease or a cytokine storm.

Immunomodulating herbs and drugs can help stimulate an immune response while also inhibiting too large of a response. Artemisinin was found to be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis, which has been shown to be due to a pathogen with an intracellular form, (53⁸⁸), and not helpful for osteoarthritis which is due to overuse or other physical trauma. (54⁸⁹) Artemisinin is a phytonutrient extract of the herb wormwood. It is used as a malaria treatment and in Africa ten grams of the dried herb may be used daily as a prevention against malaria, a mosquito borne parasitic disease affecting blood cells. (55⁹⁰)

The whole herb, wormwood (Artemisia annua), may contain other phytonutrients with stronger anti-viral effects than artemisinin, as whole herb extracts were found more effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus than artemisinin alone (cell-based study). The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) expressed concern that use of a whole herb extract for non malarial illness in the population might result in an increase in artemisinin-resistant malaria strains. (56⁹¹) That concern may be overlooking the synergistic – additive – effect phytonutrients within a plant may have.

Many plants have phytonutrients that work together beneficially, helping health in different ways that have an additive effect: one may help offset a negative effect of another, or one may help one symptom and another might help a different symptom. Ginger root, for example, has over 400 bioactive phytonutrients.

Artemisinin chemically is a sesquiterpene lactone – an aromatic terpene. Two strains of Artemisia annua were chemically analyzed and found to have slightly different ratios and types of sesquiterpenes and terpenes, (57⁹²) so other aromatic chemicals in the whole herb may also be helping health in various ways. One in particular, arteannuin-B, has been found to work with artemisinin against the malaria parasite in a combination that was more effective than if the artemisinin was used alone. (58⁹³) Switching to a whole herb extract or using the combination of arteannuin-B and artemisinin might reduce the risk of the malaria parasite becoming artemisinin resistant instead of increasing the risk about which the W.H.O. expressed concern. (56⁹⁴)

Bioactive – chemicals with some biological effect within our bodies, it might be beneficial or harmful for a particular person depending on the person’s underlying level of health or genetic differences, or gender, age or other factors.

Artemisinin chemically is attracted to cells with excess iron which infectious microbes need for growth and so do cancer cells. The phytonutrient can stop protein replication within the iron rich cell which stops the replication of the infectious microbe. It also seems to bind with the excess iron which in itself can cause oxidative damage – rust might be a more familiar term for oxidative damage affecting iron. If Rheumatoid arthritis is due to an intracellular pathogen then artemisinin may be helping by stopping the underlying infection. It can help in cancer because cancer cells also tend to have extra iron and it may be helpful for the anemia of chronic inflammation which also involves excess iron in cell storage instead of being used to carry oxygen within red blood cells and may be involved in symptoms of extreme tiredness during later stages or recovery from an infection.

The amazing thing about artemisinin in comparison to other antimalarial medications is a low toxicity risk comparatively. Healthy cells are not targeted. Normal function does not seem to be disrupted although it may have pro-inflammatory effects. Arteannuin-B, on the other hand, has been found to have significant anti-inflammatory effects:

Arteannuin-B inhibits the LPS-activated production of PGE2 four times more than artemisinin or dihydroartemisin, and it has a strong inhibitory effect on the proinflammatory interleukines IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α.”. (Lutgen 2013, 58⁹⁵)

Reducing interleukin-6 levels would likely be helpful for treating COVID-19 illness. It is increased by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and by the infection process naturally. It can help fight infection and has pro and anti-inflammatory types. A protein (sgp130Fc) helps control the pro-inflammatory type but it is normally present in amounts lower than would be needed during later stages of COVID-19 illness (the name of the disease caused by an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, a new virus in the group of cold and influenza viruses). Providing sgp130Fc as a treatment may help treat the people with the more severe inflammatory reaction. There seems to be a genetic susceptibility regarding the over sensitivity to IL-6 levels which may help explain why some people don’t get very sick and others get severely ill with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. (59⁹⁶)

Recent studies about polymorphism within the IL-6R genes, showed how some IL-6 Receptor variants could be a much better substrate for the shedding protease ADAM17, resulting in a reduced response to inflammation and infectious states, in terms of sIL-6R increase [68]. Those individuals are also protected from many chronic inflammatory diseases [69].” (59⁹⁷)

This theory, if true, could help point out who is more at risk for a severe immune reaction to a SARS-CoV-2 infection – people with chronic inflammatory diseases – it suggests they have the more active immune response by their IL-6 Receptor. Knowing who is more at risk can help identify who needs to be more self-protective and who may benefit from preventive treatment or early treatment for suspected symptoms. And they may be the people who might be helped by providing the protein sgp130Fc that inhibits the pro- inflammatory IL-6 Receptor. There is enough of the inhibiting protein to block the receptor activity during normal health but the level of IL-6 can increase five-fold during an infection – while no extra sgp130Fc is made. The excess IL-6 starts inflammatory activity in surrounding cells creating an increasing inflammatory response. (59⁹⁸)

Panic? Or use the information about our genetic immune responses and infection risks to be more proactive about our own health? or our communities’ health?

We can defend from within by providing our bodies with the extra nutrients that our unique genetic metabolism or infection or disease may require for our cells to cope. Vitamin C and other antioxidants and phytonutrients can also help reduce IL-6 and other inflammatory chemicals.

~~~~ end of book excerpt as it was written

addition: The protein sgp130Fc has also been found helpful to treat an animal model of Rheumatoid arthritis. The treatment used was 2.5 mg/kg which was given intravenously to the animals daily three weeks after the induction of the disease condition. Thy hypothesis that the treatment would also improve vascular health in the animals was not disproved. (60) Vascular health is commonly negatively effected in Rheumatoid arthritis along with the symptoms of swollen and painful joints, typically starting in the fingers and toes and progressing to the feet and ankles.

The protein sgp130Fc may also be helpful for treating ulcerative colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is tested in human clinical trials for the two bowel conditions by Ferring Pharmaceuticals and I-MAB Biopharma. The version of the protein being produced and tested by the pharmaceutical companies is being called Olamkicept. (61)

The protein may also affect the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia or other inflammatory brain conditions. The protein does not cross the blood brain barrier but affects throughout the rest of the body may still affect the brain by causing an increase of soluble interleuken-6 Receptors which then can increase brain inflammation. The spg130Fc would need to be delivered into the brain somehow to inhibit the soluble IL-6 R and reduce inflammation. (61)

Maybe it would help reduce the amount of the soluble IL-6 Receptors that would be available to enter the brain if given intravenously within general circulation, I don’t know enough about this topic. It is nice to have some hope though. Previous treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s dementia have focused on reducing amyloid protein and it has not been found very helpful for improving the condition.

Pomegranate polyphenols (ellagic acid) can cross the blood brain barrier after metabolism by intestinal bacteria transforms them into urolithins. (62) Pomegranate peel extract also has been used to help form nanoparticles. Urolithin a is being given orally as a nanoparticle to help reduce oxidative stress during treatment with the cancer drug cisplatin. Mortality rate improved in an animal-based study with the addition of the urolithin a. (63) Maybe a combination of spg130Fc and urolithin could cross the blood brain barrier.

Cautions for use of spg130Fc may be needed if liver disease is present, and use for cancer treatment would be dependent on the specific cancer type. It might help treat some types and worsen other types. (61)

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use. It is not intended to provide individual guidance. Please seek a health care provider for individualized health care guidance.

Reference List

Endothelial cells, COVID-19, and Vitamin C

Endothelial cells line the blood vessels and like other cells do have ACE2 receptors and may be able to be infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In more severe cases of symptomatic infection the disease progresses beyond respiratory symptoms to include vascular symptoms and increased risk of blood clots and strokes. Some patients had vascular symptoms without having had severe respiratory symptoms. The illness is unlike other respiratory viral infections and may involve infection of the vascular endothelial cells as well.

The vascular symptoms can also be caused by the body’s natural response to infection to move iron from hemoglobin in red blood cells into storage in other cells where it could be less available to a pathogenic microbe. Anemia of chronic infection or chronic inflammation can result from the shift of iron. Too little hemoglobin means too little oxygen carrying capacity in the blood.

For whatever cause, viral entry of vascular endothelial cells or anemia of chronic infection, the good news is that vitamin C and other nutrients help strengthen vascular walls and reduce inflammatory cytokine production, and reduce risk of blood clots,

Vitamin C protects blood vessel lining. The endothelial cells lining blood vessels form a tight barrier, which is weakened (permeabilized) by inflammation. Vitamin C tightens the endothelial barrier and maintains its integrity during inflammation

Vitamin C Protects Blood Vessel Lining, VUMC Reporter, https://news.vumc.org/2015/09/04/vitamin-c-blood-vessel-lining/

Bioflavonoids, and other polyphenols and antioxidants would all still be helpful treatments for reducing oxidative stress, strengthening blood vessels, preventing coagulation, and reducing cytokine storm. See previous post for more information on bioflavonoids which also help reduce blood clotting risk and may act as decongestants if enough is eaten – Bitter taste receptors in the lungs & Hesperidin’s decongestant properties.

Other phytonutrients that may help against SARS-CoV-2 infection are listed in this post: Phytonutrients that may help against SARS-CoV-2.

Foods that may help if intestinal inflammation is also a problem (GI discomfort, diarrhea, a few points about nausea relief) ACE2, Diarrhea, & COVID19 – it gets complicated.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use. It is not intended to provide individual guidance. Please seek a health care provider for individualized health care guidance.