How valuable would a few more years of life be to you? What if you knew what was going to happen before it happened? What if you could fix it before it happened? Do you realize that you probably already practice this philosophy in your everyday life? Do you wait for your car to run out of gas before you fill it? No. We have developed advanced automotive future-predicting technology called a gas gauge so that our freeways are not cluttered with drivers on the side of the road cursing the fact that they have unknowingly run out of gas. In human health, we call a gas gauge a “biomarker”. Different biomarkers predict different future events, including death. Some biomarkers are better than others. I invite you to continue this journey with me down the rabbit hole of human health as we explore biomarkers and their importance in optimizing health.
One of the problems with the scientific community is that we often become compartmentalized as specialists in a particular field of research. So much so, that we get tunnel vision. In the 1990s, when the genomics revolution was occurring, a new scientific method of advancing knowledge emerged. Historically, the systematic process of advancing our understanding of the world involved the formulation of a hypothesis first, then designing an experiment to test the hypothesis, and then the targeted gathering and interpretation of data in the context of the original hypothesis to test the hypothesis and determine if it remained valid. This is called the hypothesis testing method. However, the emergence of the genomics revolution changed the entire scientific method forever.
In the late 1980s, and early 1990s new technologies for gene sequencing and gene expression were being developed that allowed scientists to measure thousands of genes at one time. This enabled us to comprehensively measure all genes at once. This created a whole new scientific method, called the hypothesis generating method. In the hypothesis generating method, the scientist has no preexisting hypothesis to test. The scientist basically says, “let’s compare condition A versus condition B and see what we get”. Previously, it would have been much too wasteful to randomly generate data with no preexisting assumptions as to their purpose or utility. However, these new comprehensive technologies enabled scientists to generate large amounts of data relatively inexpensively. Under this model it was OK if 99% of the data was normal or unchanged by the experimental conditions. The goal was to find those 1% changes that could really tell us what is wrong in persons with disease X. These technologies were possible for genes and proteins because these types of molecules are linear sequences of pre-defined building blocks that are ultimately defined by our genetic code. However, these technologies were not applicable to my world of small molecule chemistry because you cannot sequence a metabolite. The infinite space of metabolism it is far more complex. For metabolomics (the comprehensive study of small molecules or metabolites), there is no map.
This is when I realized that a major tool was missing. For me to be able to do comprehensive biochemistry experiments, I needed a technology that could measure thousands of biochemicals simultaneously. That technology did not yet exist, so I would have to create it myself. This became my first patented tool-making technology. I hypothesized that if you can measure the mass of a metabolite accurately enough, you can determine its molecular composition without any prior knowledge. This would be a true, non-targeted analysis. My invention is technically called a method of complex sample analysis. It uses a high-resolution, high mass accuracy instrument called an ion cyclotron mass spectrometer.
Another way to look at this is by considering the operational organization of human biochemistry as three main levels. The first is genetics, also known as the genotype. Our individual uniqueness is written in our genetic code. Next, we have proteomics, which is all the proteins that physically do the work in the body, like enzymes and transporters and receptors for example. The third level is the small molecules known as the metabolome, which are the actual building materials that enter our body from our food supply and which the body transforms into everything that makes you, you. It is important to look at the metabolome when it comes to disease function. Metabolomics allows us to quickly pick up on anomalies in the operations of the body’s systems, and through inference we can identify where a functional deficiency is happening. It is at the metabolomics level that our human biochemistry reveals to us if there is a healthy or a disease prodrome.
I have studied tens of thousands of patients. I’ve conducted more clinical trials and pre-clinical research projects than I can count. It's all been an enormous amount of work. However, in the face of all this disease-focused information gathering, I missed the other side of the coin. Eventually, I realized that the obvious thing staring me in the face was the prodrome of a healthy phenotype. I had already recognized that there are prodromes for diseases (and patented many of them). There are also prodromes for healthy function. Those 95-year-olds with perfectly functioning brains are not random. There is a biochemical reason for their health. There is a prodrome for health, just like there is a prodrome for disease.
Amazingly, I can now say that we have been able to redefine the classical definition of a prodrome so that it’s no longer about diseases; it's about the prodrome of health. The fact is that if you can maintain health, then disease cannot occur. Disease is the absence of health in a specific part of your body. It is all about identifying biochemical reserves and having a biochemical reserve capacity.
The Discovery of Plasmalogens
Plasmalogens are a critical component of health. They are one of those strange molecules that can be exciting and frustrating at the same time. Shortly after I first invented this technology, we were doing a clinical trial on Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment. We were looking at blood samples using this complex non-target metabolomics technology that I invented. These molecules were showing up to be depleted in individuals with cognitive impairment and they had this very strange molecular formula. They were phospholipids, but they only had seven oxygens instead of eight. When I researched them, I found out that these were molecules called plasmalogens which were discovered about 100 years ago.
I then discovered that these are not rare metabolites. We have high concentrations of plasmalogens in key organs of the body like the eyes, the kidneys, the lungs, the heart, and the brain. I began to look at historical postmortem data which showed depleted brain levels of plasmalogens in certain diseases. Previous researchers assumed that the brain was biochemically isolated from the rest of the body and that these decreases were caused by disease and oxidative stress, not that their low levels were actually the cause of the disease in the first place. My initial discoveries regarding depleted levels in the blood and my subsequent research on the mechanisms of plasmalogen depletion in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia changed all that.
Once I learned about the existence of plasmalogens, I realized their importance and began to research more. I conducted more clinical trials and expanded our laboratory studies. This is how the plasmalogen story became real. It is an awakening experience because it exemplifies how science is supposed to work. As a synthetic organic chemist, I invented numerous plasmalogen precursors that could selectively restore certain types of these natural plasmalogen molecules. These biochemical precursors are 100 percent natural, and they enter directly into the body's natural biochemical pathways.
This all means that plasmalogens are a critical component of our physical and mental health.Plasmalogen depletion is also a key negative feature of aging.The plasmalogen story allows us to expand the conversation into other critical biomarkers and biosystems of health and vitality. These can include cholesterol regulation and mitochondrial function amongst others. This is what we do with the prodrome scan. The prodrome scan blood test compiles most validated and critical biochemical systems and puts them together into a simpler format. This way we can start focusing on getting the basics right first, and then we can go deeper beyond that. It has shown us that we must deal with health and disease in a simple stage-by-stage approach.
This research has allowed us to discover new ways to move beyond the focus of disease and prevention and towards true health and vitality. Are you are ready to take the next step and optimize your health? Download a short summary on plasmalogens, learn about my upcoming book, or explore my videos on the resources page to learn more about how you can change your perspective on health and aging. You can order a blood test or my supplements at www.prodrome.com