What Is Biopterin?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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The body makes coenzymes to manipulate the various cellular transitions needed for survival. One type of coenzyme is called biopterin, a product of the breakdown of the more complex tetrahydrobiopterin, or BH4. Biopterin is a cofactor in the production of several needed neurotransmitters in the body, including dopamine, serotonin and epinepherine. It also is integral in the body's production of needed nitric oxide. Problems maintaining adequate levels of this coenzyme could result in a wide range of medical difficulties. Though primarily in the pineal gland, it is produced in several other glands.

Without the right levels of biopterin in the bloodstream, along with its cofactor dihydrobiopterin, the body could develop some serious medical conditions, including one with symptoms similar to phenylketonuria. Low biopterin levels are suspected contributors to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. It is also a precursor to rabies, some cardiovascular diseases, clinical depression and a condition called dystonia, which involves a neurological failure to control the body's movement. By contrast, high levels of the coenzyme have been found in children with autism, though those same high levels were found in their siblings who did not develop autism.


One disorder is specifically tied to biopterin deficiencies. Its symptoms are similar to those of the genetic disorder called phenylketonuria, which is a body's inability to process the needed enzyme phenylalanine. Those symptoms, if left untreated could lead to retardation, seizure disorders and permanent brain damage. The symptoms of such disorders, however, can be avoided if identified in blood screenings at birth or shortly thereafter. Treatment typically entails a special vegan diet for life and drugs to regulate the body's cellular health.

The body can suffer from a variety of enzyme and coenzyme deficiencies, each with its own symptoms and prescribed remedy. Scientists analyze blood to calculate levels of biopterin in relation to other enzyme levels to determine if it or some other deficiency is responsible for a patient's symptoms. Studies show success, in many cases, with mere multivitamins or niacin- and iron-rich diets that provide the extra biopterin needed by people whose bodies do not produce enough. For those with levels above the norm, a few prescription drugs have shown success as well. A common drug used to balance out levels is methotrexate; often, a doctor will also recommend a special diet particularly successful in restoring biopterin health.


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