Although usually identified as an essential cellular nutrient for cellular growth and maintenance, nicotinamide is under development as a novel cytoprotectant for acute and chronic neurodegenerative disorders. Here, we outline support for the premise that nicotinamide both prevents and reverses neuronal and vascular cell injury. Nicotinamide fosters DNA integrity and maintains phosphatidylserine membrane asymmetry to prevent cellular inflammation, cellular phagocytosis and vascular thrombosis. The downstream cellular and molecular cascades are considered vital for the cytoprotection offered by nicotinamide. These pathways encompass the modulation of Akt, the forkhead transcription factor FKHRL1, mitochondrial membrane potential, caspase activities and cellular energy metabolism, but remain independent of intracellular pH and mitogen-activated protein kinases. As both a therapeutic agent and an investigational tool, nicotinamide offers new therapeutic strategies for degenerative disorders of the CNS.