In Mice, Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Prevents Glaucoma

August 22, 2017 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 


A study published in the journal Science in 2017 reports that adding vitamin B3 to the drinking water of mice prevented them from developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is an age-related condition in which pressure inside the eye damages retinal ganglion cells, the neuronal cells that connect the eye to the brain.

Age contributes both to the buildup of pressure within the eye and to the vulnerability of the neuronal cells to damage. Vitamin B3 seemed to correct the latter problem.
The study by Pete A. Williams and colleagues compared mice with an inherited risk of glaucoma to control mice. Williams and colleagues found that a molecule called NAD that keeps cells functioning normally declined with age, reducing the reliability of the neurons’ energy metabolism.

Vitamin B3 boosted the metabolic reliability of the aging neuronal cells. This helped the cells resist damage from mounting pressure in the eye.

Williams and colleagues also found that a single application of gene therapy with the gene NMNAT1 also prevented glaucoma in the mice. NMNAT1 is the gene for an enzyme that makes NAD from vitamin B3. Gene therapy via an injection in the eye has been approved to treat some rare human eye disorders.

The researchers hope to eventually test vitamin B3 treatment in people with glaucoma and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Editor’s Note: Vitamin B3 may be beneficial for other conditions as well. High-dose niacin (500 mg and up) is a prescription treatment for high cholesterol, and especially the combination of high cholesterol and high triglycerides (blood fats). Niacin may also prevent hardening of the arteries and second heart attacks in men with heart or circulatory problems, and improve diabetes (type 1 and 2). There is some evidence that vitamin B3 can also improve symptoms of osteoarthritis, such as joint stiffness, pain, and swelling. In addition, people who consume more niacin have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, though it is not clear that taking niacin supplements can prevent the illness.