Special vitamin B3 offers hope for Parkinson's therapy

Vitamin successfully used to regenerate nerve cells

So far, Parkinson's has been considered an incurable neurodegenerative disease and the available therapies can only delay the course of the disease. With a corresponding early diagnosis, a few years can be gained in this way, but the common Parkinson's medications in turn show considerable side effects, which can also cause serious problems with increasing use. Alternatives with as few side effects as possible are therefore urgently sought. According to a recent study, a special form of vitamin B3 could possibly help here.

A certain form of vitamin B3 boosts energy metabolism in nerve cells and protects them from dying, the University of Tübingen reports on the current study results. The drug could represent a new possible therapeutic approach, the researchers around Dr. Dr. Michela Deleidi from the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and the University of Tübingen. The scientists published their study results in the specialist magazine "Cell Reports".

Typical signs of Parkinson's

Parkinson's disease is also known as a shaking disease, since fine motor control is increasingly impaired as the course of the disease progresses and many sufferers develop a strong tremor (tremor) that literally shakes them. Shaky hands, stiff muscles and slowed movements are typical symptoms of Parkinson's disease, experts say. The researchers estimate that 220,000 people in Germany are affected, although other estimates come to significantly higher results (up to 400,000 people).

Damaged mitochondria in the nerve cells

The neurodegenerative disease occurs increasingly with increasing age and is based on the loss of nerve cells in the brain, explain Dr. Michela Deleidi and colleagues. Exactly how the disease arises remains unclear, but it is clear that neurons containing dopamine increasingly die in the region of the black substance (substantia nigra) in the brain. In addition, the knowledge that the mitochondria in the affected nerve cells are damaged has recently been consolidated. The mitochondria form the energy power plants of the cells and in the event of a defect, the required energy can no longer be made available. This can lead to cell death.

Relation to the mitochondria examined

In her current study, the researchers investigated whether the damaged mitochondria are only a side effect or a trigger of Parkinson's disease, explains the study leader. To this end, the scientists examined cells taken from the skin of Parkinson's patients. These were stimulated in such a way that stem cells first emerged from them, which then developed into nerve cells. However, these cells had a defect in the so-called GBA gene, the most common risk gene for Parkinson's. The experts report that the function of their mitochondria and their energy production were impaired, as with "real" nerve cells.

New formation of mitochondria achieved

The scientists used the cultured cells to investigate whether the formation of new mitochondria can be stimulated. According to the researchers, the coenzyme NAD plays an important role here and they therefore fed the cells with nicotinamide riboside, a form of vitamin B3 and precursor of the coenzyme. In this way, the concentration of NAD in the cells could also be increased. “The energy balance in the nerve cells improved a lot. New mitochondria formed and energy production increased, ”summarizes the study leader.

Results confirmed in further studies

"In order to observe the effect of the vitamin in a living organism, the next step was to investigate flies with a GBA gene defect," said the University of Tübingen. Also in flies - similar to Parkinson's patients - dopamine-rich nerve cells died over time and they have increasing problems with running and climbing with increasing age. If nicotinamide riboside was mixed into the flies with the food, this also showed an extremely positive effect compared to a control group without the corresponding feed additive. "Much fewer nerve cells died in the treated flies than in the untreated flies," said Deleidi. In addition, they kept their mobility for longer.

Hopes for a new therapeutic approach

According to the researchers, the study results suggest on the one hand that “the loss of mitochondria actually plays a significant role in the development of Parkinson's” and that on the other hand it becomes clear that the administration of nicotinamide riboside could be a new therapeutic approach. The special form of vitamin B3 "boosts the defective energy metabolism in affected nerve cells and protects them from dying," says Deleidi. To what extent the vitamin can actually help with Parkinson's disease must now be examined in further studies. "Other studies have shown that it is well tolerated by healthy test subjects and that they also stimulate their energy metabolism," emphasizes the study director. In the next step, the active ingredient will be examined in Parkinson's patients. (fp)

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