Niagen may prevent neurological damage, improve cognitive and physical function, says NIH mouse study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / wildpixel
© Getty Images / wildpixel

Related tags Dna damage Mitochondrion Nr

Nicotinamide riboside, a vitamin B3 derivative, may prevent neurological damage and improve cognitive and physical function in a new mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the US National Institutes of Health.

Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is found naturally in trace amounts of milk and other foods, and is a more potent, no-flush version of niacin (vitamin B3). Published research has shown that NR is a potent precursor to NAD+ in the mitochondria of animals. NAD+ is an important cellular co-factor for improvement of mitochondrial performance and energy metabolism.

As organisms age, NAD+ levels drop, which leads to a decrease in mitochondrial health; this in turn leads to age-related health issues. In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain’s usual DNA repair activity is impaired, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction, lower neuron production, and increased neuronal dysfunction and inflammation.

“The pursuit of interventions to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s and related dementias is an important national priority,”​ said Richard Hodes, MD, director of the NIA. “We are encouraging the testing of a variety of new approaches, and this study’s positive results suggest one avenue to pursue further.”


The study used ChromaDex’s branded Niagen ingredient and comes hot on the heels of a report​ by scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland which found that mice with Alzheimer’s disease treated with NR had lower levels of amyloid deposits, improved mitochondrial energy production and improved memory (Sorrentino et al. Nature​, Vol. 552, pp. 187–193).

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)​, found that supplementing the diet of mice with Alzheimer’s for three months led to a reduction in tangles in their brains, higher neuroplasticity, less DNA damage, increased production of new neurons from neuronal stem cells, and lower levels of neuronal damage and death.

The researchers reported that the area of the brain which typically becomes damaged in individuals with dementia – the hippocampus – NR appeared to either clear existing DNA damage or prevent it from spreading further.

“We are encouraged by these findings that see an effect in this Alzheimer’s disease model,”​ said Vilhelm Bohr, MD, PhD, senior investigator and chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology of the NIA’s Intramural Research Program. “We are looking forward to further testing of how NR or similar compounds might be pursued for their possible therapeutic benefit for people with dementia.”

Next steps for the research team include further studies on the underlying mechanisms and preparations towards intervention in humans.

NR’s impact on cognitive function

The research was welcomed by Frank Jaksch, Founder & CEO of ChromaDex. “We are pleased that our collaboration with NIH-NIA resulted in a significant peer reviewed publication in a prestigious journal,”​ Jaksch told us. “This publication follows several other very recent publications with preclinical data demonstrating that NR, by raising NAD, has a significant impact on cognitive function. 

“There are at least two human trials on mild cognitive impairment underway, and the additional data should pave the way for additional human clinical trials.”

Source: PNAS
2018; published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1073/pnas.171881911
“NAD+ supplementation normalizes key Alzheimer’s features and DNA damage responses in a new AD mouse model with introduced DNA repair deficiency”
Authors: Y. Hou, et al.

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