Henry Markram, the Switzerland-based genius who founded both the Human Brain Project and Frontiers, delivered his third gift to humanity: a solution to this pandemic.
I almost missed Markram’s groundbreaking Hypothesis and Theory paper in Frontiers from July 2021, but luckily my reader found it so I can announce to you:
Bring down your blood sugar if you want to survive COVID-19, i.e. either take metformin or go on ketogenic diet.
The world once again stands in eternal gratitude to Markram, the South Africa-born professor at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. His first master stroke was to set up the world bestest Open Access scholarly publisher, which he achieved with Frontiers in 2007. But now his wife, Kamila Markram, is running the daily business as CEO, while Henry remains president of Frontiers Media SA.
His second titanic project was to simulate in a supercomputer the human brain (whose, we can only guess), because, as Markram educated the knowledge-hungry TED audience, “If you zoom into the surface of the neocortex, you discover that it’s made up of little modules, G5 processors, like in a computer.” The human brain is actually “a massive grand piano, a million-key grand piano“, and intelligence arises due to genetics or being able to afford an Oxford education (yes, Markram did say this).
He even announced to cure all brain diseases and to create consciousness in a supercomputer, the world was willing and ready, those were the happy times when science made everything possible. Thus convinced, in 2014 the European Commission gave Markram for his Human Brain Project (HBP) €1 Billion, for 10 years. We were promised by the Genius back then:
Unfortunately, after lots of infighting with his HBP colleagues and lots of ridicule from his international neuroscience colleagues, Markram was pushed out to a sulking corner of irrelevance at HBP, the Germans are now running the show, unconvincingly. The results are to be delivered in 2024, but after a lot of good will, by now EU decided never to fund such megaproject Flagships ever again and even terminated open calls.
Obviously nobody is simulating any brains now, this is how helpless HBP is without Henry Markram’s visionary genius. Like the parallel Flagship project, Graphene, HBP even tried to deploy their billion-euro heavy scientific and computational power to smash the COVID-19 pandemic. Graphene offered nanoparticles, HBP went so far as to propose nicotine, so you see the desperation.
Blue Brain solves COVID-19
Banished to his lair in Lausanne, Markram decided to show everyone who pooh-poohed his genius and to save the world from the pandemic. His new paper, in Frontiers mind you, does not declare any HBP funding, only that from EPFL to his Blue Brain Project there (originally designed to simulate a mouse brain to operate murine robots, now wipe that stupid laugh off your face). There is also a preprint version posted on medRxiv on 1 May 2021.
Emmanuelle Logette, Charlotte Lorin, Cyrille Favreau, Eugenia Oshurko, Jay S. Coggan, Francesco Casalegno, Mohameth François Sy, Caitlin Monney, Marine Bertschy, Emilie Delattre, Pierre-Alexandre Fonta, Jan Krepl, Stanislav Schmidt, Daniel Keller, Samuel Kerrien, Enrico Scantamburlo, Anna-Kristin Kaufmann and Henry Markram A Machine-Generated View of the Role of Blood Glucose Levels in the Severity of COVID-19 Front. Public Health (2021) doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.695139
Professor Markram deployed his gigantic brain and his AI to study all the COVID-19 scientific literature and figured out:
- “We used an expert knowledge system to mine and map the knowledge contained in the open-access CORD-19 literature database, to understand why some people are more severely affected by SARS-CoV-2 than others.
- Elevated blood glucose is the most likely single risk factor to explain why, in otherwise healthy patients, disease severity is associated with age and known comorbidities.
- Elevated blood glucose can facilitate virtually every step of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
Meaning, it’s the diabetics who are among the worst risk groups for COVID-19, I wonder if the doctors noticed it! And the virus prefers to infect metabolically active cells, here another scientific discovery nobody ever thought about before. A “Huge Study”, said the highest authorities:
In an EPFL press release, which is rather Markram’s victory speech to the rescued humanity, the Genius explained:
How does one achieve such superhuman feat where pedestrian scientists failed? Markram explains how:
“Scientists immediately went to work when the pandemic started and within a year published over a hundred thousand papers. But, can anyone read so many papers? Can anyone see and understand all the patterns across all this research? […]
With access to the CORD-19 dataset, Blue Brain quickly assembled an AI tool and targeted it to try and find out why some get sick and others not. Is it enough to just say that older people are more vulnerable? We must find out why. Why do some apparently healthy people die from COVID-19? Why do so many people die in the ICU? To answer these questions, we directed our AI to trace every step of the viral infection from the moment the virus enters the lungs until the time when the virus breaks out of the cells in the lungs and spreads throughout the body to infect the organs,” explains Prof. Markram. “We also built the virus at an atomistic level and developed a computational model of the infection so we could try to test what was coming out of the literature. I think we did find the most likely reason why some people get sicker than others,” he concludes.”
But how can we, humble readers, protect ourselves from the virus? I found this nutrition advice in the Frontiers study:
“The strong link between COVID-19 severity and diabetes and obesity has led to consideration of nutritional interventions in the treatment of the disease (387), as for example the use of low-carbohydrate diets or ketogenic diet (low-carb, high fat diet) […] In a similar way, KD could also have the potential to help the immune defense against pulmonary viral infection, but this has to be confirmed for SARS-CoV infection. […]
The literature makes a strong case for using a ketogenic diet (KD) in the management of COVID-19, but there are challenges to clinical implementation. […] Hence, reducing glucose in the diet may be an interesting approach as a potential preventive measure to reduce the risk of developing severe symptoms. However, implementing such an intervention for severely ill patients in critical care in a pandemic, often with non-specialist staff, is not without potentially serious risk to the patient.”
The ketogenic diet is also known as Atkins diet, after its propagandist Robert Atkins, who taught never to eat any carbohydrates (not just refined sugars: no bread, no rice and no potatoes, not even fruits) and to derive energy solely from protein and fat (specifically: meat, eggs and dairy products). Not really physiological or environment-friendly, but the idea is that it would drive your metabolism into ketogenic mode and let you become slim and healthy while smelling of acetone. Atkins himself demonstrated the success of his diet by dying in 2003 with a history of heart attack, congestive heart failure, hypertension and obesity, weighing 117 kg. The diet’s real mechanism is that it’s so disgusting, you voluntarily reduce your caloric intake to avoid vomiting.
The paper even references a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University in USA (NCT04358835) where they intended to put intubated COVID-19 patients onto ketogenic diet, but the trial was withdrawn before it began recruiting. Or maybe they just couldn’t figure out the method to feed intubated people with sausages.
I don’t know if Markram himself is into ketogenic diet, but I am mostly vegan, so how can I protect myself from that mutating coronavirus without eating just meat, eggs and cheese? Well, Professor Markram has a peer-reviewed solution for us vegans and vegetarians also:
“Metformin, an old, safe, and FDA approved drug, is an interesting glucose management drug that also has multiple other effects that could be beneficial in the management of COVID-19. Metformin not only reduces blood glucose levels and clearance following a bolus of glucose, but also has anti-inflammatory properties as well as cardio-vascular protective effects (i.e., anti-thrombotic). Patients with diabetes on metformin seem to be at lower risk of severe disease,…”
Metformin must work!
Sure, there are clinical studies, even in Frontiers, suggesting that diabetes patients on metformin may be better protected from COVID-19 as opposed to patients with uncontrolled diabetes. Not entirely unexpected. But is metformin really a drug of choice for those who are not diabetics?
There are several clinical trials testing metformin as COVID-19 therapy, one in USA (NCT04510194) is even testing it in combination with the antidepressant fluvoxamine or the anti-parasitic ivermectin. None has published any results so far. Interestingly, the TOGETHER trial NCT04727424 in Brazil, coordinated and sponsored by McMaster University in Canada, did test metformin, plus additional arms for fluvoxamine, ivermectin and interferon. Only the results for fluvoxamine were published (Reis et al 2021), possibly because they seemed malleable enough to wring out something looking like a positive effect of that antidepressant. The metformin data was not published yet, same for the other two drugs.
But wait! Let’s have a look at TOGETHER website, maybe there are some new developments? Indeed: the hepatitis drug Peginterferon Lambda (an interferon derivate) is currently the only one still being trialled, which I find unfair given that fluvoxamine was stopped early for being too successful, so why is the antidepressant being denied to other patients in that TOGETHER trial then???
It also turns out, metformin and ivermectin were “Stopped early for futility“. Oops. Here the webpage for metformin:
And here a preprint uploaded to the website by the TOGETHER investigators, submitted to JAMA (and just accepted, as I was told). It announced:
“The proportion of patients hospitalized or visited an emergency room for 6 hours was not different between the metformin and placebo group (relative risk [RR] 1.15 [95 % Credible Intervals 0.73; 1.83]), probability of superiority 0.27. We found no significant differences between the metformin and placebo group on viral clearance through day 7 (Odds ratio [OR], 1.04, 95% Confidence Intervals 0.91-1.18) or other secondary outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS In this randomized trial, metformin did not demonstrate any benefit on COVID-19 associated emergency room observations or hospitalization or other secondary clinical outcomes. This trial demonstrates that expedient clinical trials can be implemented in low-income settings even during periods of crisis.”
So metformin doesn’t work then, who will tell it to Markram? Does it mean Atkins diet for us now? Not everyone gave up:
Of course it was not Markram who first proposed metformin as COVID-19 therapy, there are many such peer-reviewed studies, since mid-2020 in fact. Most likely, the idea originally came from some diabetologists who wanted to join that drug-repurposing race we all learned to love and cherish during this pandemic. Only fair, when cardiologists arrived with statins, psychiatrists with antidepressants, and certain infectious disease doctors in Marseille with chloroquine, to fight on on the Cytokine Storm front.
And like with all the other repurposed COVID-19 crushing drugs, we can always find studies claiming that metformin kills the SARS-CoV2 virus in vitro:
Hurrah for Open Access!
Let’s go back to the EPFL press release and Markram’s speech there. He uses the occasion to indirectly advertise for his Open Access publishing business Frontiers:
“The problem is even bigger. There are several million scientific papers that one would need to read and understand to work out what we know about the brain. Does anyone know what we know? But, machines can read so many papers. […]
When the CORD-19 literature dataset was made available to us, we at Blue Brain were able to point our technology at COVID-19 and propose an answer to an important question in the battle against this deadly virus. Therefore, is it right to only make science papers (that are publicly funded) open to the public during a pandemic when the same kind of techniques can be used to help address so many other diseases, accelerate science, and help save the planet from climate change?”
Markram shyly announces to deploy his Blue Brain AI and Frontiers to solve climate change next. It will be his fourth great gift to humanity, hope it arrives soon. By the way, despite Markram being the founder and president of Frontiers, his COVID-19 paper in Frontiers states:
Because the Frontiers co-owner Markram of course never received preferential treatment from his wife and his employees, what a silly supposition. The real reason why he chose Frontiers must be that when the Nobel Prize for solving COVID-19 will be awarded to him, it will be also awarded to Open Access, an altruistic cause the Markrams have been selflessly fighting for since he founded Frontiers. They even generously helped the EU Commission design Plan S!
Maybe I should remind here of the ownership structure of Frontiers, the perceived maverick among the scholarly publishers. Hardly anyone knows that its (majority?) owner is the German publishing giant Holtzbrinck, which also owns Springer Nature. Sure, Wikipedia never mentions this, but fact is a Swiss law firm once even announced this investment. Fact also is that Frontiers Media is controlled by three parties:
- The Markrams (Henry being the president),
- A Holtzbrinck executive, who used to be Michael Brockhaus until his early death in 2018, and was then replaced by Julian Oei,
- An investment firm named CVC, represented by its founder Steven Koltes.
And now Frontiers won another award! Here a very recent press release by the company:
“Frontiers is pleased to announce it has won the Special Jury Prize at the 2021 Vaud International Business Awards. Each year, the ‘Special Jury Prize’ is awarded to one organization in recognition of their role in boosting Canton Vaud’s image abroad, creating jobs at home, and successfully contributing to the reputation and prosperity of the area. […] Frontiers is now the ninth largest and the third most cited academic publishing house in the world.”
I don’t know, most jobs Frontiers created are not in Lausanne and the surrounding canton Vaud, but in Asia, where the cheap IT workforce is plentiful.
But so what, Ashutosh Tiwari‘s scamference and predatory publishing business also got a recognised by the fellow entrepreneurs of the tiny Swedish village of Ulrika! I think the above and below pictures are very similar, in a way.
Now all we have to figure out now: Atkins diet or metformin?
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