An elixir of youth could be on the horizon after a team of researchers found that administering the vitamin nicotinamide riboside restores organs’ regenerative capacities and delays ageing.
Researcher Hongbo Zhang from EPFL’s Laboratory of Integrated Systems Physiology (LISP) wanted to understand how the regeneration process deteriorated with age. To do so, he teamed up with colleagues from ETH Zurich, the University of Zurich and universities in Canada and Brazil.
Through the use of several markers, he was able to identify the molecular chain that regulates how mitochondria – the “powerhouse” of the cell – function and how they change with age. The role that mitochondria play in metabolism has already been amply demonstrated, “but we were able to show for the first time that their ability to function properly was important for stem cells,” said Johan Auwerx, who led the team.
Under normal conditions, these stem cells, reacting to signals sent by the body, regenerate damaged organs by producing new specific cells. At least in young bodies. “We demonstrated that fatigue in stem cells was one of the main causes of poor regeneration or even degeneration in certain tissues or organs,” said Zhang.
So far, no negative side effects have been observed following the use of NR, even at high doses. But caution remains the byword when it comes to this elixir of youth: it appears to boost the functioning of all cells, which could include pathological ones.