Neurodegeneration from mitochondrial insufficiency: nutrients, stem cells, growth factors, and prospects for brain rebuilding using integrative management
Degenerative brain disorders (neurodegeneration) can be frustrating for both conventional and alternative practitioners. A more comprehensive, integrative approach is urgently needed. One emerging focus for intervention is brain energetics. Specifically, mitochondrial insufficiency contributes to the etiopathology of many such disorders. Electron leakages inherent to mitochondrial energetics generate reactive oxygen free radical species that may place the ultimate limit on lifespan. Exogenous toxins, such as mercury and other environmental contaminants, exacerbate mitochondrial electron leakage, hastening their demise and that of their host cells. Studies of the brain in Alzheimer's and other dementias, Down syndrome, stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's disease, Friedreich's ataxia, aging, and constitutive disorders demonstrate impairments of the mitochondrial citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) enzymes. Imaging or metabolic assays frequently reveal energetic insufficiency and depleted energy reserve in brain tissue in situ. Orthomolecular nutrients involved in mitochondrial metabolism provide clinical benefit. Among these are the essential minerals and the B vitamin group; vitamins E and K; and the antioxidant and energetic cofactors alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10; CoQ10), and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, reduced (NADH). Recent advances in the area of stem cells and growth factors encourage optimism regarding brain regeneration. The trophic nutrients acetyl L-carnitine (ALCAR), glycerophosphocholine (GPC), and phosphatidylserine (PS) provide mitochondrial support and conserve growth factor receptors; all three improved cognition in double-blind trials. The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is enzymatically combined with GPC and PS to form membrane phospholipids for nerve cell expansion. Practical recommendations are presented for integrating these safe and well-tolerated orthomolecular nutrients into a comprehensive dietary supplementation program for brain vitality and productive lifespan.