Purpose: Maintaining levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme critical for cellular energetics and biosynthetic pathways, may be therapeutic in retinal disease because retinal NAD+ levels decline during retinal damage and degeneration. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether systemic treatment with nicotinamide riboside (NR), a NAD+ precursor that is orally deliverable and well-tolerated by humans, is protective in a mouse model of light-induced retinal degeneration.
Methods: Mice were injected intraperitoneally with vehicle or NR the day before and the morning of exposure to degeneration-inducing levels of light. Retinal function was assessed by electroretinography and in vivo retinal morphology and inflammation was assessed by optical coherence tomography. Post mortem retina sections were assessed for morphology, TUNEL, and inflammatory markers Iba1 and GFAP. Retinal NAD+ levels were enzymatically assayed.
Results: Exposure to degeneration-inducing levels of light suppressed retinal NAD+ levels. Mice undergoing light-induced retinal degeneration exhibited significantly suppressed retinal function, severely disrupted photoreceptor cell layers, and increased apoptosis and inflammation in the outer retina. Treatment with NR increased levels of NAD+ in retina and prevented these deleterious outcomes.
Conclusions: This study is the first to report the protective effects of NR treatment in a mouse model of retinal degeneration. The positive outcomes, coupled with human tolerance to NR dosing, suggest that maintaining retinal NAD+ via systemic NR treatment should be further explored for clinical relevance.