Neuroprotective effects of creatine

Amino Acids. 2011 May;40(5):1305-13. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-0851-0. Epub 2011 Mar 30.


There is a substantial body of literature, which has demonstrated that creatine has neuroprotective effects both in vitro and in vivo. Creatine can protect against excitotoxicity as well as against β-amyloid toxicity in vitro. We carried out studies examining the efficacy of creatine as a neuroprotective agent in vivo. We demonstrated that creatine can protect against excitotoxic lesions produced by N-methyl-D: -aspartate. We also showed that creatine is neuroprotective against lesions produced by the toxins malonate and 3-nitropropionic acid (3-NP) which are reversible and irreversible inhibitors of succinate dehydrogenase, respectively. Creatine produced dose-dependent neuroprotective effects against MPTP toxicity reducing the loss of dopamine within the striatum and the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. We carried out a number of studies of the neuroprotective effects of creatine in transgenic mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases. We demonstrated that creatine produced an extension of survival, improved motor performance, and a reduction in loss of motor neurons in a transgenic mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Creatine produced an extension of survival, as well as improved motor function, and a reduction in striatal atrophy in the R6/2 and the N-171-82Q transgenic mouse models of Huntington's disease (HD), even when its administration was delayed until the onset of disease symptoms. We recently examined the neuroprotective effects of a combination of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) with creatine against both MPTP and 3-NP toxicity. We found that the combination of CoQ and creatine together produced additive neuroprotective effects in a chronic MPTP model, and it blocked the development of alpha-synuclein aggregates. In the 3-NP model of HD, CoQ and creatine produced additive neuroprotective effects against the size of the striatal lesions. In the R6/2 transgenic mouse model of HD, the combination of CoQ and creatine produced additive effects on improving survival. Creatine may stabilize mitochondrial creatine kinase, and prevent activation of the mitochondrial permeability transition. Creatine, however, was still neuroprotective in mice, which were deficient in mitochondrial creatine kinase. Administration of creatine increases the brain levels of creatine and phosphocreatine. Due to its neuroprotective effects, creatine is now in clinical trials for the treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD) and HD. A phase 2 futility trial in PD showed approximately a 50% improvement in Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale at one year, and the compound was judged to be non futile. Creatine is now in a phase III clinical trial being carried out by the NET PD consortium. Creatine reduced plasma levels of 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine in HD patients phase II trial and was well-tolerated. Creatine is now being studied in a phase III clinical trial in HD, the CREST trial. Creatine, therefore, shows great promise in the treatment of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Creatine / administration & dosage
  • Creatine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Nitro Compounds / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Propionates / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Nitro Compounds
  • Propionates
  • 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine
  • Creatine
  • 3-nitropropionic acid