Categories
Dihexa Nootropics

Dihexa: The Story and Science of a Neurogenic Wonder-Drug

If you have spent any respectable amount of time studying the more extreme margins of nootropics lore, then you have likely stumbled upon accounts of Dihexa, the neigh-legendary Alzheimer’s drug that is purportedly “10,000,000 times stronger than BDNF for new synapse formation”.[1]

In the past Dihexa has been notoriously difficult to find, and even now it is far from accessible to budding body hackers, but with increasingly regular group buys and even a straightforward FAQ popping up, it would seem that Dihexa has made a stable arrival on the fringe of the Nootropics community, and is here to stay.

But despite the increase in access, Dihexa’s mechanism of action is still shrouded in a veil of mystery unperturbed by a mere Google search. Fortunately, the history and pharmacokinetics of Dihexa are as fascinating and tantalizing as the fabled experience reports and research studies purporting its potency.

History of Dihexa

As with many great drugs, the idea for Dihexa was conceived by the inspiration of serendipity and circumstance. In the early ‘90s, the laboratory of Joseph W. Harding was mainly focused on the cerebral control of vascular function, which is heavily influenced by the neuropeptide angiotensin. The lab’s work originally involved angiotensin blockers, specifically ACE inhibitors[2], as a novel means of cancer prevention through the lowering of prostaglandin[3] levels.

But in their tests was an anomaly: a specific sequence of angiotensin, specifically angiotensin IV (Val-Tyr-Ile-His-Pro-Phe), did not exert hypertensive effects unlike its precursor, angiotensin II. Harding’s interest in the compound was further piqued when a colleague’s paper on angiostatin, which is essentially the opposing hormone of angiotensin, had the angiotensin IV peptide sequence incorporated into its structure. Upon testing it for binding sites, Ang-IV was found significantly in the hippocampus, suggesting it had a potential connection to memory formation. With the acquisition of funding from the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lily & Co. (the same company responsible for Cialis, Prozac, and Cymbalta), Harding was able to synthesize an unlimited number of Angiotensin IV analogues for his work. Big Pharma had just given the hunt for Dihexa the huge boost it needed.

3D structure of Dihexa
The 3D structure of Dihexa, with labelled amino acid groups and modifications to encourage lipophilicity and stability.

Work with the Ang-IV analogues was nothing short of miraculous: in every model of cognitive decline, that the analogues of Ang-IV that Harding had developed were able to completely reverse impairment when intraperitoneally injected. (This even included such the reversal of damage from kainic acid brain injections that destroyed up to 60% of cerebral neurons![4]) Yet despite these remarkable findings, none of the tested analogues could pass the blood-brain barrier, and their half-lives in the brain lasted a handful of minutes, at most: none of these candidates could pass muster as a pharmaceutical drug. Unfortunately, before a more functional analogue could be found, Eli Lily was forced to cut off funding: the company had been plunged into a financial crisis when it failed to warn patients about the possible birth defects that can be caused by Prozac, launching a legion of lawsuits against the pharmaceutical giant. The strain and frustration of the period were so great that the company’s vice president actually resigned, and a happy byproduct of the resignation was the return of Harding’s intellectual property. The significant reduction of funds, however, had stopped progress with the Ang-IV analogues in its tracks.

In the early 2000s, the work began anew. Harding and his colleagues began to zero in on the precise peptides necessary for the procognitive properties of a particularly promising analogue, Nle-Angiotensin-IV and arrived at the tripeptide sequence Nle-Tyr-Ile. This sequence was then modified to increase its stability and lipophilicity. This progress attracted the attention of ADDF and WSU, which have been funding the project since. Eventually, one particular modified analogue, MM-201, later known as Dihexa, distinguished itself from the rest of the pack, even going as far as to boost the performance of impaired mice beyond that of non-impaired controls.

Dihexa compared with Ang-IV
Rodent hippocampal neurons were treated for 5 days in vitro with A) water B) Dihexa C) Nle1-Ang-IV. The images show the representative dendritic arbors from each sample, with glowing dots marking synapses. D) and E) show the number of dendritic spines per 50µm of dendrite following 5 days of stimulation and 30 minutes of stimulation with solutions, respectively. [5]
How does something this incredible happen on a chemical level? What miracles is Dihexa performing in our minds? The details are as complicated and interesting as anyone could hope for, and portray Dihexa as a very powerful drug that may also be very dangerous.

Dimerization: a novel mechanism of action

The major term to understand in comprehending Dihexa’s MOA is dimerization, coming from di-, or “two”, and -mer, or “part” (as in merman). Recent science has revealed that many growth factors actually come in two parts that remain apart in the cell, until conditions demand that they activate, at which point they will dimerize into a two-part complex that can then cause a signal cascade resulting in growth, survival, and regeneration of the factor’s target cells. Dihexa works with hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which has been found in elevated levels in the cortex during the early stages of neurodegenerative disease, suggesting it is being released by the brain in an attempt to facilitate a recovery from damage.

The dimerization of hepatocyte growth factor involves the membrane-bound enzyme c-MET, a tyrosine kinase that is involved in the expression of certain genes by managing the proteins that bind onto DNA strands, preventing or enabling other enzymes to “read” the genes and produce the corresponding proteins from that code (this is the basis for changes in “gene expression”).

This is where the monumental potential of this drug becomes apparent: the current understanding that the dimerized form of growth factors is the activated form, Dihexa both increases HGF activity and lowers dimerization. This suggests that the allosteric modulation of HGF is actually producing an active monomer complex, theoretically doubling the capacity of the available factors to promote signaling cascades and exert changes on cell development. Here is the change in effect worked out as an equation:

Normal HGF/c-MET function: (HGF + HGF) + (c-MET) = Activation

HGF/c-MET function with Dihexa: (HGF + Dihexa) + (c-MET) = Activation




For analogy, imagine that the normal dimerized growth factor activity is like typing: you have to use both hands to do it properly. By allosterically binding to HGF, Dihexa is basically coming along and making it so you only need one hand to do a two-handed job, freeing the other hand to do another two-handed job.

c-MET pathway
An overview of the c-MET pathway. Note the dimerized c-MET complex protruding from the cell membrane.[6]
Before Dihexa, there were no drugs looking at managing the dimerization of growth factors to restore cognition. In fact, most contemporary dimerization work focuses on its prevention. This is where some very real concerns arise concerning the use of Dihexa in healthy subjects: the contemporary work to which I am referring is anti-cancer research. As much help as these performance-enhancing growth factors are for enhancing neuroplasticity and long-term potentiation, they give just as much of a leg up to any latent tumors developing in the body. The HGF/c-MET complex is actually an explicit target for antagonism in anti-cancer research, as this illustrative video reviewing the function of the factor shows.

Due to this implied cancer risk, one could liken the use of Dihexa to the use of nuclear power: rare but incredible power married to rare but incredible risks. But what power, indeed, we have yet to test the limits of. As suggested by its pro-tumor capacities, the HGF/c-MET pathway extends far beyond neurogenesis alone: c-MET receptors are expressed on the endothelial cells of many major organs, including the liver, kidneys, skeletal muscle, bone marrow, pancreas, and prostate. Dihexa could perhaps be used to accelerate wound healing, promote improvement of circulation, and perhaps even enhance anabolic development and prevent muscular atrophy from wasting disease. It could also facilitate recovery from diabetic neuropathy and circular dysfunction, liver cirrhosis/scarification, other types of organ damage, anemia, and perhaps even metabolic and mitochondrial disorders.

So why is such a remarkable drug so understudied and underdeveloped? The answer can be found in several endpoints, but the biggest one is the dollar: without the support of deep pockets like Eli Lily, there is no realistic scenario in which Dihexa becomes FDA approved, a process that can easily cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. NIH, one of the major bodies giving research grants for Alzheimer’s treatments, only cares about working with amyloid beta to manage the disease.

The second reason is the sheer novelty of the drug means that it is not even on the radar for most organizations. In scientific research, being remarkable and unique is as much a blessing as a curse, because researchers prefer to build off of established knowledge bases, specifically the ones for which they have established a knowledge base. With the exception of some anti-cancer treatments, Dihexa is one of the only Alzheimer’s research chemicals that modulates HGF, an MOA most doctors know nothing about.

The pharmacology of Dihexa in animals is well-documented: in vitro, the synaptogenesis of Dihexa begins at T+30:00, maximizes at +48:00:00[7]. The overall half-life of the drug is currently charted at approximately a week: longer than just about any other neurogenic compound. While the major observed effect is synaptogenesis, in models of impairment the drug also revived production of tyrosine hydroxylase (the enzyme essential for the production of catecholamines such as dopamine and noradrenaline) in the substantia nigra (one of the largest concentrations of dopaminergic neurons in the brain).

Dihexa experiences

Discussion of history, MOA, pharmacokinetics, and obscurity aside, one question still remains: “What does it do when a healthy human takes it?” As with many neurogenic substances, the answer to such a question is predicted heavily on the existing neurochemical environment (including other drugs in the system), route of administration, and genetic predisposition. In the absence of neurological insult (science speak for “brain damage), which gives a firm basis for improvement, these conditions have a heavy bearing on whether such a substance will influence development at all. Formal testing of Dihexa in human trials has yet to even begin, due to the lack of funding for such research, and anecdotal reports are varied. Adventurous guinea pigs on different forums have listed dosages everywhere from 8 to 45 mg per day and report a variety of benefits, from increased mental stamina to heightened articulation. Users have reported increases in creative thinking, social intuition, and problem-solving skills. There has also been a fair deal of non-responders who haven’t felt anything at all.

Dihexa experienceThe author has personally experimented with a DMSO+Dihexa solution with a 16.67mg/mL concentration, applying .5mL to clean, exfoliated inner forearms every other evening for a week (3 doses, total). The experience was transformative in many of the ways purported by anecdote, including an increase in creativity, articulation, and problem-solving. What really distinguished the drug from other neurogenic substances in the author’s personal repertoire was how well it accelerated deliberation of social conflict. Remarkably large and fast leaps in logic allowed for prompt and thorough insight into the dynamics of ethical quandaries, suggesting a boost in critical thinking via the anterior cingulate cortex, the malfunction of which has been associated with such mental disabilities as ADHD[8] and ASD.[9]

Of course, this is only an informal study, complete with exposure to a multitude of confounding factors. Despite the promise already posed by Dihexa, poor funding and a lack of interest from much of the scientific community means that the chemical has a long way to go before human trials, let alone becoming an FDA-approved pharmaceutical, and if the view of the HGF/c-MET system as a vehicle for tumor growth persists, it may always be reserved for only the most severe cases of cognitive decline and physical distress. Still, for those determined few transhumanists willing to go to any lengths to transcend their normal limitations, Dihexa holds great promise and, despite its difficult procurement, doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. It is the imposing poster child of a new frontier in medicine, where the hopes of expectations met are to meet our expectations of ourselves.

References   [ + ]

Categories
Life Extension

Epitalon: The Fountain of Youth

For centuries mankind has searched for the “Fountain of Youth”; that proverbial source of everlasting life. Herodotus wrote of a spring that gave the water of youth to all who bathed in it. Juan Ponce de Leon looked for it in south Florida centuries later but didn’t find it. Man’s quest for such a fountain failed until Dr. Vladimir Khavinson discovered Epitalon in the 1980’s. The fountain turned out to be a peptide produced by the pineal gland [1].

Telomeres
Telomeres resemble the plastic tips on the ends of the shoelace that prevent it from fraying.

There are many theories of aging, one of which is the shortening of telomeres in our DNA. A telomere is like the plastic tip on the end of your shoe lace. It protects the DNA from unraveling during each cell division. Each cell division results in a slightly shorter telomere length, and eventually, the cell can no longer divide. This is called the Hayflick Limit, after Dr. Leonard Hayflick’s discovery that cells have a limited number of times that they can divide.[2] In mammals, the telomeres are protected from shortening until the onset of sexual maturity. After that, they begin to shorten with each cell division, eventually leading to an inability to divide any more in order to replace worn out, damaged or diseased cells. There is an enzyme called telomerase that is produced in the cells which stimulates the lengthening of the telomeres. The pineal gland produces a hormone called epithalamin that tells the cells to produce telomerase which in turn results in longer telomeres in our DNA. The functionality of the pineal gland declines with age, and is partly responsible for age related diseases. [3]

Dr. Vladimir Khavinson
Dr. Vladimir Khavinson
Khavinson V.” by Nikolay bilakOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

What Dr. Khavinson found was that introducing epithalamin into mammals resulted in a reversal of age related diseases, and a reversal of the signs of aging. He was able to take geriatric female mice, who were no longer fertile, give them epithalamin, and after about two weeks of treatment, the mice became fertile again, got pregnant and had pups.[4] He showed that Epitalon induces telomerase activity in human somatic cells, proving that telomeres were lengthened by the peptide.[5] The synthetic version of epithalamin was patented by Dr. Khavinson and called “Epitalon” (also sometimes called epithalon since the original word is in Russian). It was approved for general use in the Soviet Union in 1990 and has been used in gerontology there ever since. No adverse side effects have ever been reported, according to Dr. Khavinson.

Since Epitalon is patented and trademarked, no drug company will research it. Since drug companies pay for almost all of the research on new medicines, no human clinical trials have been done in the West on it. Almost all of the research has been done by Dr. Khavinson and his associates. The results of his research are startling: for example, the application of Epithalamin diminished mortality in aged humans by 1.8 times over a 6 year period of observation. [6] Here in the West, Epitalon is sold as a research chemical, not approved by the FDA for any purpose, but unregulated for research purposes. Anyone who uses it is considered a “researcher,” in other words.

Epitalon chemical structure

Epitalon is a small peptide of 4 amino acids: Ala-Glu-Asp-Gly and can be administered via injection, as a nasal spray, or through the skin. The most effective route of administering it is via injection, either subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The peptide is typically given 2-3 times a day for 10-20 days in doses of 5-10 mg each. This cycle is repeated once every six to twelve months, but Epitalon can be given as often as desired. There are no negative side effects from the drug ever reported in over 100 studies on the peptide and from clinical use in Russia since 1990. Epitalon works mainly on the endocrine system but has effects on the entire body.[7]


 
When I first started taking it, my sense of smell returned, my digestion improved and I slept better. I have also noted positive changes in my vision and hearing. All of these functions are related to the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system. Epitalon has been shown to restore normal melatonin production in aging monkeys, as well as restore the normal circadian rhythm for cortisol production, both of which result in better sleep at night.[8]

Epitalon is certainly one of the most interesting anti-aging substance on the market, but further studies are needed to assess the efficacy and safety of telomerase activators.

Epitalon is not approved by the FDA and should not be used to treat or cure any disease.

For more in-depth information about Epitalon check out Epitalon, Part II: Mechanism of Action and the Epitalon’s Facebook group.

References   [ + ]

Categories
Noopept Nootropics

Noopept Review: Effects, Dosage and Side Effects

Noopept is a cognitive-enhancing peptide synthesized in Russia in 1996, as a successor to prototypical nootropic drug Piracetam. It was based off the endogenous neuropeptide cycloprolylglycine.[1] Peptides are molecules consisting of 2 or more amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. Depending on the number of amino acids, peptides are called dipeptides, tripeptides, tetrapeptides, etc.

Overview

As said before, Noopept is a dipeptide. Peptides are not well absorbed in the GI tract and need to be injected via intramuscular or intravenous injection. Noopept, however, is a peptide that is only two amino acids long (dipeptide), and this allows it to be small enough to be absorbed orally, without being ripped apart by digestive enzymes and acids.[2]

It is commonly thought to be a racetam, but it is not since it does not have a pyrrolidinone nucleus.
It is said to be 1000 times stronger than Piracetam in effective dose level and nootropic activity[3], however, this statement doesn’t seem to have a scientific foundation.

The advantage of Noopept over Piracetam is its ability to stimulate the expression of the neurotropic factors NGF and BDNF.[4]

  • NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) prevents neuronal degeneration and promotes myelin repair. Dysregulation of NGF signaling has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease[5] and other psychiatric disorders, such as dementia, depression, schizophrenia, autism.
  • BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), like NGF, plays a significant role in neurogenesis. It controls synaptic function and plasticity and modulates neuronal survival[6].

The major metabolite of Noopept, cycloprolylglycine, has anxiolytic effect in animal models[7]. Scientists hypothesize this effect is a consequence of increased inhibitory transmission in the hippocampus.[8]

Another interesting effect of Noopept is its immune boosting ability. It reduces immunosuppression induced by cyclophosphamide, stimulates immune response to various antigens, and increases phagocytic activity of macrophages.[9]

Benefits of Noopept

  1. Improves memory recall and it is neuroprotective.
  2. Reduces brain fog and promotes mental clarity.
  3. May enhance focus and attention span.
  4. May have weak stimulant properties.
  5. Increases levels of neurotrophic factors NGF and BDNF.

How to Take

Noopept is sold in Russia in 10 mg tablets to be taken 2-3 times a day, but the most common dose is 20 mg twice a day.

Even though it is orally bioavailable, anecdotal reports indicate that oral and sublingual routes of absorption have different effects. The sublingual route has a stronger nootropic effect while the oral route is slightly more anxiolytic. No human studies comparing the absorption of Noopept via different routes have been conducted, however.

Noopept
Noopept, as it is sold in Russia

Another way that nootropic users like to take their Noopept is through nasal administration, by using either a solution or insufflating the powder by itself. For more information read our article on the intranasal administration of Noopept.

The effect of Noopept becomes stronger with chronic treatment[10] and the official drug package insert recommends taking Noopept in a “3 months on, 1 month off” cycle.

Side Effects

Noopept doesn’t have serious side effects or contraindications.
The most common reported side effects are irritability and problems with short-term memory. These side effects usually go away after a week of dosing and can be a consequence of excessively high dose.
Most nootropics have a bell-shaped response curve, so taking a higher dose than recommended will not necessarily make the positive effects stronger and could potentially increase the negative effects.

Noopept
7
Focus
5
Mood
7.5
Memory
6.5
Stimulation
6.5
Relaxation
10
Safety
Reviewer 7.7

References   [ + ]

Categories
Nootropics Selank

My Experience with Selank, the Anxiolytic Peptide

It’s becoming a given — whether you’re stuck in a traffic jam on your way to work, arguing with your partner over finances, coordinating the family’s busy schedule, or having difficulty turning down your racing thoughts at night, most of us encounter daily stresses. According to the National Institute of Health, 40 million adults in the US have anxiety disorders. [1] These can range in severity from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia to more extreme versions including Panic Disorder, OCD, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Traditional treatments for anxiety disorders have included a class of medications known as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium). However, many clinicians have growing concern over prescribing such medications due to their addictive nature and impact on cognition. New reports are emerging that demonstrate a direct correlation of benzo use to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed “the risk of Alzheimer’s disease was increased by 43-51% among those who had used benzodiazepines in the past. Risk increased with density of exposure and when long acting benzodiazepines were used”. [2]

With these statistics in mind, many Nootropic enthusiasts have focused attention for anxiety relief on a particular class of Nootropics, peptides.

A peptide is a chemical compound containing two or more amino acids that are coupled by a peptide bond. There are 20 naturally-occuring amino acids and they can be combined together to form new molecules. When a molecule consists of 2-50 amino acids it is called a peptide, whereas a chain of 50 or more amino acids is referred to as a protein.[3]

Discovery of Selank

Research on peptides began in the 1970’s in Russia following the UN “Convention on Psychotrophic Substances” that essentially banned drugs traditionally used by militaries worldwide.[4] This ban included amphetamines, a widely employed wakeful and focusing drug. The Ministry of Russian defense tasked the Research Institute of Molecular Genetics in Moscow to develop comparable chemical agents. It was at this time Nikolai Myasoedov, a researcher at the institute, focused his attention on endogenous compounds, peptides, to provide harmless stimulation.[5]

Tuftsin and Selank

Dozens of molecules previously unexplored came to light out of this research, including Tuftsin (aka TP-1), a tetrapeptide produced primarily in the spleen.[6] The researchers discovered that this peptide had nootropic, anxiolytic and immunostimulating effects[7]

The researchers found out that they could prevent premature decomposition of the molecule by attaching a ‘tail’ of amino acids to the tuftsin molecule. Selank (formerly TP-7) is born.[8][9]

Clinical trials on this novel compound concluded in 2004 and Selank was proven effective for treating an array of anxiety disorders. In addition, many patients were able to conquer their fears coupled with “improved mood, mental and motor activity, and most importantly, Selank was demonstrated as not addictive”. [10]

The benefits of Selank summarized
The benefits of Selank summarized

According to research provided by the Institute of Molecular Genetics, drops “that must be instilled into the nose” is still considered the best way to take neuropeptides.[11] With this in mind, a >1% solution of Selank can be prepared for sterile instillation.

My experience with Selank

I have personally tried Selank on several occasions to help quell feelings of anxiety and have found it to be quite effective. 400 mcg instilled intranasal provided me with several hours of great clarity, focus, and organized thought. My mind doesn’t feel cloudy or groggy like I’ve experienced from other anxiolytics, mood is noticeably improved, and a slight energy lift is detectable. In my opinion, Selank is a viable treatment option for those suffering from anxiety and for certain aspects of motivation especially those with an inability to see projects through to completion.

Selank
6.5
Focus
8.5
Mood
6
Memory
5.5
Stimulation
8
Relaxation
9
Safety
Reviewer 8.2

References   [ + ]