8 February 2018

Dietary Supplement Repairs Brain Damage in Mice with Alzheimer’s


A mouse study conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen and the American National Institute of Health shows that neurological damage to the brain in connection with Alzheimer’s disease may be repaired by a kind of dietary supplement. The substance also improves the cognitive and physical abilities of the mice, and the researchers believe the prospects for human testing are good.

The brain’s system for making DNA repairs is impaired in patients with Alzheimer’s. The compound NAD+ found in all living cells is central to this system. An international team of researchers headed by Professor Vilhelm Bohr from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen and the American National Institute of Health has now examined the effect of increased amounts of NAD+ in mice with Alzheimer’s.

‘Our study shows that the brains of the mice during the three-month period where they received the compound showed fewer of the characteristics associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In several behavioural and memory tests the mice received higher scores than mice who had not been given the supplement’, says Professor Vilhelm Bohr.

Fewer Dead Nerve Cells
The researchers have developed a new mouse model that imitates the main features of Alzheimer’s disease in humans. The new mouse model is based on previous post-mortem findings in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Using the new model, the researchers have tested the effects of the compound NAD+ by adding a substance to the mice’s drinking water that makes the cells produce more NAD+.

Some of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease include congestion of tau proteins in the nerve cells, precipitation of beta-amyloid between the brain cells and cognitive decline.

Among mice administered with the supplement the researchers detected fewer cases of congestion of tau protein, less damage to the DNA, higher activity and reorganisation of brain cells, increased production of new nerve cells from stem cells and less damage to and fewer dead nerve cells.

In the hippocampus – which shows damage and loss of volume in persons with dementia – the results indicate that the supplement either removed existing damage to the DNA or prevented it from spreading.

Water Labyrinths and Improved Walking Ability
Mice administered with the supplement also showed better behavioural and memory skills than the control mice. This was evident when the mice were placed in water labyrinths and from their ability to recognise objects. The treated mice also showed improved muscular and grip strength, greater stamina and improved walking ability compared to the control group. The researchers believe the physical and cognitive advantages are a result of NAD+’s rejuvenating effect on stem cells in both muscle and brain tissue. 

’We are encouraged by the results, which show an effect in our Alzheimer’s mouse model. We look forward to studying the compound’s possible therapeutic effects on humans with dementia in the future’, says Vilhelm Bohr.

The next step for the research group is to do more studies of the underlying mechanisms and improvements for intervention in humans.

The study has just been published in the journal of repute Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: NAD+ supplementation normalizes key Alzheimer’s features and DNA damage in a new AD mouse model with introduced DNA repair deficiency.

The research conducted at the Center for Healthy Aging was funded by Nordea-fonden. The project also received funding from Chromadex Corp.

Professor Vilhelm Bohr, Center for Healthy Aging and the National Institute of Health, mail: bohrv@grc.nia.nih.gov, phone: 00 1 443 850 4026