Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Attacks of King George III’s madness linked to key metabolism molecule

26.08.2005


PGC-1 mediates effects of nutrition on blood disease porphyria



Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers say they have uncovered a molecular explanation for the episodic attacks of irrational and demented behavior in porphyria, the disease believed to have afflicted "Mad" King George III, the British ruler blamed for the loss of the American colonies in the Revolutionary War.

The mental and physical symptoms of porphyria, a rare genetic blood disease which a number of modern researchers believe plagued King George intermittently throughout his tumultuous reign, can be brought on by fasting and exposure to certain drugs, and is successfully treated by feedings of sugar and high-carbohydrate food. A biological explanation for these nutritional effects has been lacking.


The Dana-Farber scientists say in a report featured on the cover of the August 26 issue of Cell that the nutritional component of porphyria involves a key master metabolic molecule, PGC-1 alpha, in cells of the liver. The gene that makes PGC-1 alpha was isolated in 1998 in the laboratory of Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, who is senior author of the new report. Postdoctoral fellow Christopher Handschin, PhD, is lead author.

"We’ve explained how porphyria symptoms can occur in episodic attacks triggered by fasting, and why they can be treated by feeding carbohydrates and glucose," says Spiegelman.

King George III suffered from five prolonged, severe episodes of madness during his rule from 1760 to 1820, a period in which he both expanded the British Empire and so stubbornly refused to negotiate with the rebellious American Colonists that they felt only a revolution against England could resolve their grievances. The symptoms recorded at the time sound to modern diagnosticians as typical of porphyria, though the King’s attacks were unusual in their severity and that they didn’t appear until he was 50.

Several types of porphyria exist, all of them stemming from inherited mutations that disrupt the body’s manufacture of heme. A reddish pigment that contains iron, heme is a building block of the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in red blood cells. The complex synthesis requires eight different enzymes, and when any of them is deficient because of a mutation, the process is blocked. The resulting back up of "precursor" substances is toxic, and can cause a range of symptoms, including dark colored urine, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, weakness in the limbs, and psychiatric symptoms such as confusion, fits and hallucinations.

Earlier this year, the British journal Lancet published a report saying that a test of strands of George III’s hair contained arsenic, which can provoke porphyria attacks. The authors of that report suggested that, ironically, he may have been exposed to arsenic contamination of a substance his doctors gave him as treatment.

PGC-1 alpha is a "transcriptional coactivator" that acts as an on-off switch for a number of genes involved in manufacture of glucose in the liver and in the "heating system" of brown fat cells that help prevent damage from cold in certain animals.

With their intimate knowledge of PGC-1 alpha and its varied roles in energy metabolism, the Dana-Farber researchers wondered if it might be involved in porphyria, since PGC-1 alpha is a regulator of heme manufacture in the liver. One of its actions is controlling the activity of the ALAS-1 gene that makes a protein that’s crucial to the normal manufacture of heme. A defect in this genetic signaling pathway could cause ALAS-1 to accumulate in high levels, leading to the symptoms of porphyria attacks.

"We found that PGC-1 alpha is an important factor controlling the expression of ALAS-1 in the fasted and fed liver," the authors write. "Moreover, we showed that hepatic [in the liver] PCG-1 alpha is a major determinant of the severity of acute porphyric attacks in mouse models of chemical porphyria."

Through a series of experiments with normal mice and those engineered to lack the PGC-1 alpha gene, the researchers said they have provided "a clear-cut mechanism" linking fasting to an increase in PGC-1 alpha, and, in turn, overactivity of the ALAS-1 gene. The therapeutic effect of glucose and high-carbohydrate diets on porphyria, they add, occurs because glucose causes the pancreas to make more insulin, which results in suppression of the PGC-1 alpha gene.

The findings suggest that patients with porphyria should avoid any drugs or foods that turn on PGC-1 alpha activity in the liver, the researchers say. There could be implications for treatment as well: high-carbohydrate diets aren’t a satisfactory therapy for affected patients as it make them gain, and fasting in order to lose the weight risks provoking attacks. Hopefully, the researchers say, it might be possible to develop more specific treatments now that the mechanism underlying the symptoms of porphyria is better understood.

Bill Schaller | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.dfci.harvard.edu
http://www.dana-farber.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch
22.05.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Flow of cerebrospinal fluid regulates neural stem cell division
22.05.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

Im Focus: Dozens of binaries from Milky Way's globular clusters could be detectable by LISA

Next-generation gravitational wave detector in space will complement LIGO on Earth

The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...

Im Focus: Entangled atoms shine in unison

A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.

The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Designer cells: artificial enzyme can activate a gene switch

22.05.2018 | Life Sciences

PR of MCC: Carbon removal from atmosphere unavoidable for 1.5 degree target

22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences

Achema 2018: New camera system monitors distillation and helps save energy

22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>