Can Nicotinamide Riboside Protect Stem Cell Function?

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Nicotinamide riboside has been touted as an 'anti-aging' supplement but there has been limited supporting evidence so far. Now new research shows it could actually help preserve and regenerate stem cell health

What is Nicotinamide riboside?

Nicotinamide riboside (NR) is an unusual form of vitamin B3 found in trace amounts in milk, and began getting attention following research on a molecule called NAD+. NAD+ is readily converted to NADH and back again in cells and mitochondria to use for energy, but researchers have found as organisms age the balance shifts to more of the NADH form. This ties in with research on a group of genes called sirtuins which are involved with DNA repair among other things. Activated sirtuin genes have been connected to longevity, and the balance of NAD+ vs NADH plays a role in activating or hindering them.

NAD is an essential component for energy production

NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) is able to boost NAD levels and has been shown to regenerate muscles in mice, but it's expensive and difficult to administer. NR is comparatively cheaper, could be administered orally, and research suggests that it can boost NAD levels too.  A number of companies are now selling NR as a supplement as it's a natural product, but we don't have much information on its effect on humans yet. 

NR may be good for stem cells

There has been data suggesting that NR has a beneficial effect on metabolism and may protect against a high fat diet, but a new study in Science has shown it can help regenerate muscle in aged mice and extend lifespan too. By repairing mitochondria, it seems to have a restorative effect on declining stem cells - which are a major cause of the aging process. 

 "We gave nicotinamide riboside to 2-year-old mice, which is an advanced age for them. This substance, which is close to vitamin B3, is a precursor of NAD+, a molecule that plays a key role in mitochondrial activity. And our results are extremely promising: muscular regeneration is much better in mice that received NR, and they lived longer than the mice that didn't get it"

These results are certainly encouraging, but while NR is extremely safe and available now we really need more human data. Furthermore, the amount of NR actually used per mouse would translate to tens of thousands of dollars expense given the current price of NR on the market. 

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