The history of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+)

The history of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD+) is a fascinating journey through biochemistry and physiology, shedding light on how this vital molecule plays a crucial role in the energy metabolism, cell signaling, and repair processes within our bodies. Here’s an overview of the significant milestones in the history of NAD+:

Early Discovery and Initial Studies

  • 1906: The discovery of NAD+ can be traced back to British biochemists Arthur Harden and William John Young, who observed that adding boiled and filtered yeast extract accelerated alcoholic fermentation in unboiled yeast extracts. This hinted at the presence of a coenzyme, later known as NAD+.
  • 1936: The structure of NAD+ was identified by the German chemists Otto Heinrich Warburg and Walter Christian, who were studying fermentation and cellular respiration processes. Warburg, a Nobel Prize winner, is often credited with the discovery of NAD+ for his extensive work on the mechanisms of cellular respiration.

person holding red bottle

Understanding the Role of NAD+

  • Over the decades, research expanded into understanding the role of NAD+ in various biological processes. It was found to be a key player in metabolic reactions, acting as a coenzyme in redox reactions, where it facilitates the transfer of electrons between molecules—a process critical for the production of ATP, the cellular “energy currency.”
  • NAD+ also plays a significant role in the deacetylation reactions carried out by sirtuins, which are involved in stress resistance, genomic stability, and the extension of lifespan in several organisms.

Research on Aging and Disease

  • Early 21st Century: Interest in NAD+ surged with research focusing on its decline with age and its impact on metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging processes. Scientists began exploring ways to boost NAD+ levels in the body through precursors like nicotinamide riboside (NR) and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).
  • Studies demonstrated that increasing NAD+ levels could improve mitochondrial function, enhance energy metabolism, and potentially reverse some aging aspects, leading to increased research into NAD+ supplementation and its therapeutic potential.

Recent Advances and Therapeutic Potential

  • Ongoing research continues to uncover the multifaceted roles of NAD+ in cellular health, including its involvement in DNA repair, immune function, and circadian rhythms.
  • The therapeutic potential of NAD+ and its precursors is being investigated in various contexts, including aging, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration, and metabolic disorders, with some promising results in preclinical and clinical trials.


The history of NAD+ is a testament to the importance of basic scientific research and its potential to lead to significant therapeutic discoveries. From its initial discovery to its current status as a molecule of immense interest for its anti-aging and disease-fighting potential, NAD+ continues to be at the forefront of research into improving human health and longevity.

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