Vitamin B3 potential for stem cell therapy patients

Stem cell therapies have long been of interest in the integrative healthcare community, and they are becoming more common in mainstream care, especially for treatment in patients with lymphoma and leukemia.

According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a stem cell therapy for these cases works by removing the patient’s cancerous blood cells and replacing them with healthy ones. However, replenishing blood cells is an extremely slow process, which means a handful of patients die waiting for the new cells to take effect.

This is why a research team at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Lausanne Branch, have focused their research on how it might be possible to rebuild blood cells, by boosting the divisions of “blood-making” hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), stem cells that produce red and white blood cells. Their groundbreaking research was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The researchers, led by Olaia Naveiras, MD, PhD, of EPFL, and Nicola Vannini, PhD, of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, looked at how it might be possible to push HSCs to divide faster, they described in a statement released by the research institute and university. Stress causes HSCs to slow down, and having to replace the entire blood cell supply system is overwhelming, they said.

The stress causes increased activity in the mitochondria, the “powerhouse” of cells, the researchers said. To meet the high demands of rebuilding blood cells, the mitochondria of the HSCs increase a process called oxidative phosphorylation, which generates fuel for the cell. This, unfortunately, causes HSCs to age prematurely.

The researchers discovered an analogue of vitamin B3, nicotinamide riboside, can increase HSCs and boost their activity. The study has significant implications for stem cell therapy patients, especially since nicotinamide riboside can be taken as a dietary supplement, they said.

When they studied the effects of nicotinamide riboside in vitro, the researchers found that exposing human and mouse HSCs to the analogue improves their function and increases mitochondrial recycling, the process by which stressed-out mitochondria get cleared out to make way for fresh ones.

The researchers found that adding nicotinamide riboside to the diet of mice that had undergone an irradiation procedure that eliminates their blood cells, modeling radiotherapy, improved their survival by 80 percent and accelerated blood recovery. In immunodeficient mice, nicotinamide riboside increased the production of white blood cells or leucocytes.

What all this translates into is a significant improvement in the ability of HSCs to divide and produce new blood cells. The study shows, for the first time, that nicotinamide riboside as a dietary supplement can have a significant positive effect on preventing blood-recovery problems in cancer patients, even after chemotherapy or radiotherapy, according to the study.

"We expect nicotinamide riboside and other mitochondrial modulators to become a complementary approach for increasing stem cell fitness and accelerating blood production,” said Naveiras in a statement, “either through dietary supplementation or pharmacological administration.”