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Research suggests people with forms of earlyonset Parkinsons disease may benefit from boosting niacin in diet

People with certain forms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease may benefit from boosting the amount of niacin in their diet, according to new research from our University.

Niacin, or Vitamin B3, is found in a variety of foods, including nuts and meat.

The team from the MRC Toxicology Unit at our University studied fruit flies with a mutation that mimics the human disease.

The results of the study, which is funded by the Medical Research Council, reveal a mechanism for how early-onset Parkinson’s affects the brain, and point to other drugs that may also help this subset of patients.

Dr Miguel Martins, who led the study, explained: “Parkinson’s disease occurs when dopaminergic neurons in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra are lost. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but in some hereditary cases, the main problem is unhealthy mitochondria - the organelles that power the cell.

“Mutations in genes such as PINK1 prevent cells from clearing out the defective powerhouses. When they accumulate, neurons can’t get enough energy and die. The faulty mitochondria also release toxic molecules that damage their genes encoded by DNA.

“Curiously enough, there’s a compound in the body that’s important for both energy generation and DNA repair. It’s called NAD. With all the mitochondrial damage going on, we wondered if in cases of Parkinson’s the molecule ends up in short supply.”

The results of the study suggest that in familial Parkinson’s, available NAD is critical for keeping mitochondria in shape and the disease at bay.

Dr Martins added: “This study strengthens the therapeutic potential for Vitamin B3/niacin-based dietary interventions and PARP inhibition in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.”

Watch a video about Dr Miguel Martins's pioneering Parkinson's research below:

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