The therapeutic potential of NAD+

If we’re able to maintain the levels of NAD+ in our bodies indefinitely, there’s no telling how long we can remain healthy.

NAD+ and its primary contribution to extended health

The mystery of aging has long been one of the most puzzling enigmas. We now seem to get a new idea of what aging is. Typically, most people think of aging as an inevitability, a sort of natural law of all things. However, aging isn’t an inherit property of reality; it is increasingly being thought of as an engineering problem.

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) has a long history, going all the way back to 1906 when two biochemists named Harden and Young described it as a cell component enhancing alcoholic fermentation. It wasn’t until three decades later that a German scientist, Otto Warburg, demonstrated it’s required for redox reactions, after which he solidified the nomenclature ‘NAD’. NAD refers to the molecule’s chemical backbone irrespective of its charge, NAD+ means its oxidized and NADH refers to its reduced form — together they constitute a redox couple. Back then, it was assumed that they’ve understood all that it is to know about NAD. However, today we know NAD is a critically important molecule in our bodies. We require it for more than 500 enzymatic reactions and it plays central roles in regulating nearly every major biological process. New interest in this molecule has emerged over the last decade as scientists have discovered its intimate connection with a family of NAD+ dependent enzymes called sirtuins. Sirtuins play a critical role in maintaining the health of a cell by repairing damaged chromosomes and affecting several metabolic processes. Sirtuin activity are one of the multiple effects from the presence of NAD+, it also promotes sensory and motor function, energy production, stronger blood vessels, stronger heart, fertility, insulin sensitivity and much more. With regular exercise and a good diet, you can boost your levels of NAD+ but only up to a certain point, at which supplementation would be required to maintain the optimal levels.

This abstract depicts three ways in which too boost your NAD+ levels, and the benefits it promotes

Research into the therapeutic potential of this molecule is elaborated upon in this short video, explaining how one of the NAD precursors (nicotinamide mononucleotide, NMN) might be a strong candidate for supplementation, boosting the levels of NAD+ in our cells.

This short video clip of David Sinclair -one of the investigators at Harvard Medical School studying key cellular mechanisms behind vascular aging- explains how the molecule NAD+ boosts the protein SIRT1 enabling conversation between muscles and blood vessels which declines as we age.

In addition to preventing vascular aging, NAD+ also seems to be beneficial for preventing perhaps the most, if not the most fundamental aspect of aging – our inability to maintain continuous cell division and reproduction. Cells gradually loose this ability as we get older, mainly due to a loss of genetic information from damaged chromosomes. This results in cells loosing the instructions on how to carry out their functions.

Chromosome (blue) and its telomeres (red) shortening.
CREDIT: Children’s Medical Research Institute

At the ends of chromosomes are repetitive sequences of DNA called telomeres — analogous to the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces. Telomeres protect our chromosomes from damage but over the lifetime of a cell, these telomeres become shorter, and when a critical length is reached the cell becomes senescent. Telomeres becoming shorter as we age is not a simple correlation, its been demonstrated that it triggers cellular dysfunctions and anticipates age-related diseases. Fortunately, this is also something NAD+ can help prevent as its been demonstrated to stop telomeres from shortening by stabilizing our chromosomes. This is because NAD+ promotes a certain class of sirtuins (SIRT1) to become overexpressed, enabling homologous recombination of the chromosomes and their telomeres.

Aging is a very complicated phenomenon with many intricate biological processes and underlying causes, especially for more complex lifeforms like ourselves. There are species in the animal kingdom that do not age at cellular level. Instead, they die from harsh environmental conditions (e.g. disease, diet or predation). Lobsters for example, have indeterminate growth and continuous cell division, even after maturation. As far as science knows, this is due to their upregulation of an enzyme called the telomerase. The telomerase elongates the telomeres, and in humans, our telomerase activitiy is repressed in almost all of our cells except stem and progenitor cells after maturation. There are secrets of aging we can uncover from such organisms, and NAD+ is a promising candidate for further research into the nexus between aging and its underlying cause – pioneering future knowledge about the fountain of youth.

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