What is it about?

Emerging evidence indicates that a strong relationship exists between brain regenerative therapies and nutrition. One group of nutrients that have been widely studied for their influence in neural development are vitamins. This work aimed to discover extrinsic factors that govern brain development, and focused on a less understood but potentially key dietary nutrient for neural development – nicotinamide, since there is a growing body of evidence that this vitamin B3 metabolite may function as a signal implicated in the development or maintenance of basal ganglia circuitry.

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Why is it important?

Our work highlighted a novel role for nicotinamide in promoting stem cells towards a neural lineage and accelerating their development to yield higher numbers of subtype-specific nerve cells lost in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders. The underlying mechanisms of nicotinamide’s action were next investigated. Similar to the role of the vitamin A derivative, retinoic acid in neural development, findings pointed to a role for nicotinamide in driving a critical neural proliferation-to-differentiation switch from neural progenitors to nerve cells.


This work is exciting since it led to discovery that vitamin B3 acts as a switch to enhance the conversion of neural stem cells to mature neurons. Overall findings presented in this work indicate that nicotinamide, within an optimal dose range, plays a role in normal brain development, and could be applied to current stem cell differentiation protocols to provide more purified and mature neural populations towards future cell-based therapies.

Dr Síle Griffin

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This page is a summary of: Nicotinamide restricts neural precursor proliferation to enhance catecholaminergic neuronal subtype differentiation from mouse embryonic stem cells, PLoS ONE, September 2020, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233477.
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