Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Autoimmunity: A Proposed Common Cause and Treatment

I originally wrote this post in April 2008 at http://www.krysalis.net  This post is for information only. It represents the observations, views and opinions of the author, but is not a recommendation for treatment.  Anyone reading it should consult his/her physician before considering treatment.
Autoimmunity is defined as misdirected immune responses where the immune system attacks the body itself.  The attack can be specific to a particular part of the body with each being named as a different disease.  To date, more than eighty separate diseases have been named and identified as being autoimmune.  It appears that in every case the effects of the disease can be defined and identified as being caused by the immune system but the root cause (trigger) of the “disease” is said to be unknown.  The common treatment is to employ drugs that suppress the immune system with all their potential negative consequences. 
      The successful treatment of the autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, presented above, is a radical deviation from all other autoimmune disease investigations.  It started with the careful postulation of a novel root cause never reported before.   This lead to the identification of its best possible treatment.  The treatment is unique in that it is not based on suppressing the immune system.  It is based on selectively arresting the activity of the trigger, avoiding the negative side effects of immune suppressing drugs.
      It is a radically new approach, not only for treating rheumatoid arthritis but also has the potential of being expanded to many, if not most other autoimmune diseases.  
A few people (you can find their e-mails on my old web site) wrote to me of success using this approach which might seem unimportant because of the small sample.  However, it is very significant because:
  1. It is based on a well thought out theory.
  2. The two people to test it on themselves represent 100% of the people to try it.
  3. They tested it by taking the treatment, relatively large doses of lysine (6-8g/day), years apart from each other and both recovered in the same amount of time, about two months of taking it.

          Lysine is the widely recognized treatment for herpes.  Experience has shown it is effective for arresting a range of herpes viruses, possibly all of them.  Various mechanisms have been postulated/studied, all of which conclude that it works by inhibiting the production of the virus in contrast to enhancing the immune system.  One mechanism concludes that lysine disrupts arginine’s contribution to the production of a protein that is essential for the virus to form its capsid. The capsid is the protective protein coat that surrounds the viral genetic material, which could be DNA or RNA.  It is DNA for the herpes virus.  The genetic material surrounded by the capsid constitutes an intact virus.  The prevention of the formation of the capsid prevents the formation an intact virus that can propagate.  Thus, arginine and lysine perform opposing functions concerning he herpes virus.  Arginine stimulates the production of the virus and lysine inhibits it by blocking the role of arginine.  
I believe the mechanism is somewhat different and can best be put in the context of the latest understanding of the relationship between DNA, messenger RNA and micromessenger RNA.  It was formerly believed that DNA was a template for making RNA which was a template for making proteins.  More recently it has been discovered that the vast area of what thought to be “junk” DNA with no function actually served as templates for the production of RNA’s that didn’t transcribe to proteins, but rather directly controlled the transcription activity of the DNA.  Thus, it instructs a DNA virus to make the new DNA needed for a new virus.  These RNA’s were named messenger RNA’s.  Even more recently was the discovery of a large group of much smaller RNA molecules. They had a very different function.   They could bond to the larger messenger RNA molecules and control their activity, such as turning them off.  These molecules have been named micromessenger RNA molecules.  If we move to the relationship between herpes, arginine and lysine.  I believe that arginine promotes the production of the messenger RNA that causes the production of new viruses.  Lysine promotes the production of the micromessenger RNA’s that attach to the messenger RNA’s and deactivates them.

Both the proposed capsid and RNA mechanisms indicate a successful lysine treatment would be concentration dependent.  Low doses have little effect.  You have to reach a treatment dose that is sufficiently high to block the arginine-based reactions that promote the production of more viruses.  Experience indicates that of 1-2g/day of lysine seems to have little benefit.  Treatment levels seem to be reached at about 6-8g/day.  However, each person has to discover the right dose for himself.   It is safe to explore because there is little possibility of a significant negative reaction due to an overdose.  However, everyone is different so one should always start low and build up carefully watching for the unexpected negative reaction.  I have taken 8g/day for over a month without noticing any negative reaction.  Long term, continuous use, several months at a time, may not be a good idea because it introduces an imbalance in amino acids in the diet.  An unexpected negative reaction may occur.

Both lysine and arginine are amino acids present to different extent in most proteins.  Thus, when you eat almost anything they are in your diet, which can be an important factor.  When treating with lysine you want to eat foods low in arginine and high in lysine.  The included table gives a list of foods and the ratio of lysine to arginine in them.  This table can help to guide you in selecting your diet.

  1. Both individuals stopped taking the lysine shortly after recovering from their RA and were symptom free for many months.
  2. When the symptoms returned they would take the lysine again the symptoms would quickly go away again as totally as they did initially.  There was no reduction in the potency of the treatment and no need to increase the dose.  If anything, the require dose would be less because they would catch it right away.
  3. The first person to try it has kept herself free of her rheumatoid arthritis for at least five years with the periods of remission, needing no lysine, lasting up to a year.

Does this treatment approach apply more broadly to additional autoimmune diseases?
These results don’t just validate the theory and identify a profound treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, they also indicate a direction that could lead to treatment of many additional autoimmune diseases. In order to explore this possibility we have to thoroughly understand the path taken.  Lets start at the beginning. 
         Many years ago I happened to read an article that stated that Rheumatoid Arthritis is characterized by a degeneration of the surface of the bone.  It is also characterized as an autoimmune disease where, for unknown reasons, the immune system attacks normal cells.  For the case of Rheumatoid Arthritis the immune system was selectively attacking the surface of the bone.  Why?
         I have always believed that the immune system doesn’t just attack normal cells without a clear reason, which should be understandable once it has been identified.  What could it be for Rheumatoid Arthritis?  I wondered if I could identify it.  It almost immediately came to me that the herpes simplex virus causes lesions in the mouth.  Such lesions are the degeneration of tissue.  I had heard a theory that the viruses are formed in infected nerve cells. They are then transported along the axons, and exit at the synaptic contacts.  The immune system attacks the virus exiting the nerve cells at the synaptic contacts with a standard inflammation attack.  This damages normal cells while it is attacking the virus.  The lesion thus formed is at the synaptic contact, which can be quite removed from the infected nerve body.  Thus, the synaptic contact and cells (tissue) around it are destroyed, but the infected nerve body survives unharmed by the immune attack. 
         For herpes simplex the synaptic contacts are at the points where the lesions occur.  It has been noticed that when the lesions reoccur with another outbreak, they always occur at the same place.  That is because the source of the virus, the nerve body, was not damaged by the immune attack.
         Could it be that in the case of rheumatoid arthritis the set of nerve cells infected had their synaptic contacts at the surface of the bone?  If so, the inflammation attack on the virus would take place there, degenerating the bone surface.  Since the infected nerve body would survive unharmed the process could repeat itself indefinitely.  It wouldn’t necessarily be continuous.  It could be, but it could also turn on and off like herpes simplex.   In the case of shingles, it could turn off for years and suddenly cycle on and off again. I also knew that lysine was effective for treating herpes simplex and possibly other versions of herpes.  
         If my model was correct, one should be able to treat rheumatoid arthritis by arresting the herpes virus with lysine.  I was confident my model was correct but didn’t know anyone with rheumatoid arthritis.  A year later I was having a discussion with a person interested in my cancer web page when he mentioned that his wife had a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis.  I told him that I was confident that lysine would arrest it and why.  
         They chose to try it and the rest is history with the testimonials presented above.  
         Now the question is: Does this approach lead to successful treatment for other diseases characterized as autoimmune?  The investigation has to start with taking a close look at the very unique mechanism involved for rheumatoid arthritis.  
         The herpes virus has a number of very special characteristics, all of which have to be present or the virus would not be able to repeatedly trigger the immune attack at a specific location and thus the ongoing inflammation damage.  Could the difference between many of the autoimmune diseases be just different discrete sets of nerve systems being infected, with synaptic contacts at different organs?  Nerve systems are connected to every organ in the body making every organ vulnerable to such an attack.  The strange selectivity of the herpes virus, infecting one set of nerve cells and not others would cause the attack to be organ specific.  Each organ attacked could earn a different autoimmune disease name even though they all would have a common cause.  Could there be another virus that could also satisfy these conditions.  I don’t know of any.  Thus this could be the common cause of a large number of diseases classified as autoimmune and the same treatment could be effective for all of them. 

Special, required conditions met by the herpes virus:
  1. The virus selectively infects highly specialized sets of nerve cells and installs a viral template, a provirus, that cycles between active and inactive.  When it is active it produces more viruses.
  2. The virus programs the nerve cell so that the immune system does not see the provirus or newly produced viruses while they are still in the nerve cell.  This protects the nerve cell from an immune attack.
  3. When the provirus is active, producing viruses, the viruses are transported along the axon(s) of the nerve cell exiting the synaptic contacts, which are connected to tissue or other nerve cells.
  4. The viruses escape at the synaptic contacts and at this point the immune system sees the virus for the first time and attacks with a standard inflammation attack.
  5. Inflammation attacks are relatively indiscriminant and have the characteristic of damaging (attacking) normal cells while attempting to eliminate the invading pathogen (herpes virus).  The collateral damage to the normal cells can be quite severe caused by the immune system attacking normal cells.  However, it is collateral damage due to the intensity of the attack on the pathogen.  It is not an attack purposely directed at the normal cells.  Is this the root cause of most autoimmune diseases?
  6. In order to sustain the immune attack and thus qualify as an autoimmune disease, it is essential that there be a mechanism that specially separates the immune attack from the primary source of the virus.  Otherwise the attack will destroy the source of the virus and arrest the disease itself. That is the only way for repeated attacks to occur.  For nerve cells, the axons can be long enough so that the inflammation attack at the synaptic contacts is sufficiently removed from the nerve body so the infected nerve body survives the attack with only a damaged synaptic contact.  The infected nerve cell thus survives with the capability to repair itself and initiate another cycle of producing active viruses.  This separation of the point of immune attack from the source of the viruses is an essential feature for the survival of virus infection.  That is why you never get rid of the infection.  It just cycles on and off.
  7. Only nerve cells have axons that could transport the newly produced viruses away from the cell body source, out of reach from the inflammation attack on the virus.  
  8. The herpes virus must be highly selective as to which set of nerve cells get infected.  There may have been versions of the herpes virus that were not so selective.  In such cases the infection would spread to all nerve systems and would be rapidly fatal to the host, eliminating the virus with the host.  Thus, natural selection has given us the more selective surviving versions of the virus.  
  9. Every organ in the body has nerve connections.  Thus the selective nature of the herpes virus could selectively infect any of individual nerve system reaching any organ inducing what appears to be an autoimmune attack on that organ.  The attack on each organ would receive a different name as if it was a different autoimmune disease.  This mechanism would explain the 80+ identified autoimmune diseases.  
Is there any other virus that can meet all these essential properties?  
If there is, I don’t know what it is.   If not, it seriously strengthens the case that treatment of the herpes virus with lysine should be the first treatment tested for every autoimmune disease.  It has no risk associated with it.  It is widely available, has high promise, low cost and no known negative side effects.  And, the quickest, least expensive and safest way to test its applicability is to use it and observe the results.

Lysine also has the special feature of being an essential amino acid.  This means it is not manufactured by our body.  If it was, herpes infections would not present a problem to us.  It has to be obtained from food.  All foods have lysine as a component amino acid in their proteins.  For many people this relatively small amount of lysine may be sufficient to inhibit a herpes infection and may explain long periods of remission.    Changing diets may be the reason for the start and stop of the attacks.  However, for those suffering from an active herpes attack, it is not sufficient.  Thus the treatment will always require an aggressive use of lysine during the treatment phase.  The 1-2g/day commonly on the label of the bottle is unlikely to be sufficient.  The 6-8g/day found to be essential  by one person with rheumatoid arthritis might be used as a guide, but each person has to discover the dose and time of use that is right for him/her.

Comments on Some Specific Autoimmune diseases
I would like to suggest how the herpes infection might be connected to some specific diseases, some identified as autoimmune and some not:

Osteoarthritis also has an inflammation cause and thus is as suspect as rheumatoid arthritis of being triggered by the herpes virus.
Heart Failure: Linus Pauling claimed that the combination of lysine and vitamin C would protect against heart attack but he did not explain why.  The combination makes sense because the lysine protects against the herpes virus and vitamin C protects against a broad range of others, such as cold viruses.  Thus, the combination would protect against a broader range than either alone.  When considering the heart specifically and the theory presented above, it is entirely possible for the herpes virus to infect the nerve cells connected to the heart muscle triggering inflammatory lesions there with serious results.  This has not been specifically identified as an autoimmune disease, but it would fit the package.
Cancer:  Viruses are well known to a cause of a variety of cancers.  The viruses enter cells and harness the cell’s chemistry to produce more viruses.  This disruption of the cell’s chemistry can fragment their chromosomes, sometimes leading to cancer cells.  In the case of an autoimmune disease, there will be a repeated herpes attack at the same location.  Due to this, one would expect a relatively high correlation of cancer with such diseases.  A search of the internet produced:
  1. A paper published by the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center States, “According to study published in the Journal of the National cancer Institute, the risk of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (a subtype of non-Hodgkins lymphoma) is elevated among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren syndrome, systemic lupus, erythematosis, or celiac disease.  Some of these conditions were also linked with marginal zone lymphoma, lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, and T-cell lymphoma.”
  2. In a paper titled “Autoimmune Diseases and Cancer Co-Morbidity in the U.S. Elderly 1979 to 2001” by Hai Huang, et al. Duke University, Center for Demographic Studies, February 28, 2006.   Briefly, this paper concludes that there is a high rate of death in the elderly where cancer and an autoimmune disease are both present and either has been named as the final cause of death. Like autoimmunity, the wide prevalence of herpes infections in different organs is consistent with the many types of cancer, each named by the organ of initiation.  It does hint of a common root cause.
Multiple Sclerosis is characterized by the formation of lesions in the brain.  In this case the infected nerves are in the brain and the synaptic contacts are between nerve cells.  Thus when the inflammation attack would take place it would cause lesions in the brain.  A friend told me that his daughter had MS and was being treated with acyclovir, a drug designed to treat herpes.  The results were positive.
Shingles has been identified as being caused by the herpes virus.  A shingles attack is characterized by an eruption of serious pain in specific tissue areas with the specific area changing from person to person.  In this case the synaptic contacts of the infected nerves are in the tissue where the pain is.  Thus, when the attacks repeat, the pain is always in the same place.  I know one person who had such frequent shingles attacks that she could not travel. When she started taking a lysine-vitamin C powder they went away completely and she could travel again. 
Fibromyalgia is characterized as having muscular pain in specific locations of the body with no known cause.  It has a lot in common with Shingles.  I predict that it has the same cause as Shingles with the herpes infected nerves having their synaptic contacts at the pain locations.  The herpes induced inflammation happens there and thus the pain.  I have been in contact with woman who had fibomyalgia for many years.  Pain medications helped for brief periods but then ceased to b effective in a few weeks.  Upon learning about my theory concerning herpes and lysine, she started to take the lysine.  Her pain ceased in a few days and she has been pain free for several weeks now. 
Autism:  As I have suggested on my autism web page, I believe that a combination of viruses play a role in causing autism.  The role of the herpes virus is to do brain damage.  I talked to one mother of an autistic boy who told me that a doctor at Harvard Medical Center had detected lesions in her son’s brain.  Other infected nerves could be connected to the duodenum disrupting the digestive system.  In particular lesions there could play a role in disrupting the capability of the duodenum cells to make secretin.  This disruption is common in autistic children. 
Psoriasis, Systemic Lupus, Scleroderma, Systemic Scleroderma, Graves Disease, Diabetes Mellitus Type 1, Pernicious Anemia, Glomerulonephritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, etc. are all examples of degenerative diseases with the characteristic inflammation associated with  autoimmune diseases “with no known cause”.  None have been evaluated for response to treatment with lysine.  The only way to discover if the analysis presented here would apply is to treat with lysine and observe the results.  It is extremely inexpensive and safe.  The inflammation associated with many of these diseases can cause some serious tissue damage.  It may take many months of treatment to reverse the damage.

Lysine AlternativesThere are a number of proposed alternatives to lysine for treating herpes presented on the internet.  I don’t know how they compare with lysine and are commonly suggested as a supplement to lysine rather than a replacement.
Seaweed: I am particularly interested in the claims about Red Marine Algae for treating herpes.  Put in context, I have found articles that report that almost all versions of viruses that infect humans can be found in ocean water.  Seaweed survives quite well in this environment. Thus, all versions of seaweed, including Red Marine Algae, must have developed defenses against them.  Could seaweed provide a broad-range anti-viral treatment/defense?  Seaweed is commonly viewed as an exceptionally healthy food.  Most think it is because of it’s vitamin and mineral content.  Could it’s unusual health benefits be primarily due to its generally unrecognized broad-range anti-viral effects?  For these reasons I would consider adding any type of seaweed to the diet as a supplement to the lysine to be a good idea.  It is a safe experiment.

Where does this lead?
If you are looking for well-funded studies that evaluate this approach to treating any autoimmune disease, it won’t happen.  The treatment is widely available with no prescription needed.  It is extremely inexpensive.  Studies evaluating the use of lysine to treat any one autoimmune disease would be very expensive and to evaluate the application to a broad range of autoimmune diseases would be even more expensive.  It would be impossible to obtain a patent for the treatment and impossible to recover the costs of the studies.  The only answer I can see for spreading the information and evaluating the true possibilities is for individuals with the problems testing it on themselves and letting others know the results.  The internet becomes the key communication tool.  It can take many paths and I would encourage every interested person to use their own creativity to find a way.