Researchers have for the first time successfully tested a vitamin’s ability to help the internal organs of elderly mammals regenerate their cells.
Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) gave mice Nicotinamide riboside (NR), which proved to have a positive effect on the functioning of stem cells. Their research is published today in the journal Science.
It is hoped that the method used will prove useful for treating a number of degenerative diseases, allowing vital organs and muscles to regain the regeneration process that deteriorates with age.
“We supplied NR as a supplement to the diet of 700-day-old mice, which is an advanced age even for a lab mouse,” Dongryeol Ryu, second author of the study, tells Newsweek. “The mice that received the substance lived longer than the mice that didn’t receive it.”
No negative side effects were observed in the mice given NR, even at high doses. NR, which is a form of vitamin B3, has not been scientifically tested on humans but is already available in certain nutritional supplements found in the U.S.
The EPFL researchers said caution should be observed when it comes to branding NR an elixir of youth, as further studies are required. One avenue of study would be to make sure the vitamin does not also boost the functioning of pathological cells, such as those found in cancerous tissue.
Johan Auwerx, who led the team, says the study is a breakthrough for regenerative medicine and could have profound implications for treating diseases like muscular dystrophy. According to the scientists’ data, the muscular power of mice taking NR did improve.
“This work could have very important implications in the field of regenerative medicine,” Auwerx says.
“We are not talking about introducing foreign substances into the body, but rather restoring the body’s ability to repair itself with a product that can be taken with food.”