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Nicotinamide Riboside, A Form of Vitamin B3, Can Improve Telomere Function In Disease

Posted on 19 October 2020

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Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is an alternative form of vitamin B3, and is of interest as a potential longevity-enhancing compound. The rationale behind this is that NR supplementation could restore levels of NAD+, a molecule that is essential for the production of energy within the mitochondria, but has been found to decline with age.

Here, researchers report that NR supplementation can improve telomere function in diseased mice and human cells.

Study synopsis. NAD decline leads to oxidative damage, which accelerates telomere shortening and drives senescence and ageing. This could potentially be corrected by boosting NAD.
Sun, C., Wang, K., Stock, A., Gong, Y., Demarest, T., & Yang, B. et al. (2020). Re‐equilibration of imbalanced NAD metabolism ameliorates the impact of telomere dysfunction. The EMBO Journal. doi: 10.15252/embj.2019103420

Dyskeratosis congenita (DC) is a disease of pre-mature aging, which occurs due to a deficiency of telomere maintenance proteins. Without normal telomere function, DC presents with early-onset, life-threatening symptoms of aging in the skin, bone marrow, lungs, heart and brain.

In this recently published study, scientists examined connective tissue cells from DC patients and found that, not only were their telomeres significantly damaged, but they were also depleted in NAD+. Likewise, these scientists produced “telomere-depleted” mice by inactivating a gene for telomerase, the enzyme that extends telomeres. These mice also had low NAD+ levels.

The scientists then supplemented the cells and mice with NR. In this study NR increased NAD+ levels, reduced signs of telomere damage, promoted cell growth and prevented senescence (cellular aging) in the DC cells.

Dyskeratosis congenita may be a rare disease, but telomere damage is central to the ageing process, and this study teases at the potential of NR to slow ageing in a variety of tissues. Whether NR supplementation is actually effective in humans is currently under investigation.

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