Maintaining proper levels of an essential helper molecule is crucial for optimal muscle function, according to a study led by Joseph Baur, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Physiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Some athletes are already taking supplements to increase synthesis of this compound, called NAD, with the hopes of reversing the natural decay associated with aging of the mitochondria, the cell's powerhouses. However, this is the first study to directly investigate the consequences of NAD deficiency on muscle function. The Penn team published its findings this week in the cover article of Cell Metabolism. The open-access article is titled “Loss of NAD Homeostasis Leads to Progressive and Reversible Degeneration of Skeletal Muscle.” Oversight of the natural products industry is much looser than that for regulated drugs, and supplements to boost NAD are available over the counter. "Finding out whether strategies to enhance the production of NAD will have any impact on muscle function in healthy individuals is a subject of much speculation," Dr, Baur said. "However, answering this question will have to wait for controlled clinical trials." Dr. Baur and colleagues examined the role of NAD precursor molecules on mitochondria by specifically disrupting the so-called "NAD salvage pathway," in mouse skeletal muscle. This pathway consists of a series of enzymes that recycles building block molecules to make fresh NAD to power reactions throughout the cell, and especially within the mitochondria, the cell component that makes energy for the body from ingested food.
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