Dr Michela Deleidi who led the research says the substance stimulates the faulty energy metabolism in affected nerve cells and protects them from dying off. Although the precise cause of Parkinson’s is not fully understood, scientists know that nerve cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain die off die to damaged mitochondria (the energy producing organelles in a cell).

Working with international colleagues, Deleidi and team took skin cell samples from patients with Parkinson’s disease and induced them to turn into stem cells, which then developed into nerve cells.The cells had a defect in the GBA gene, the most common risk gene for Parkinson’s. These defected nerve cells had damaged mitochondria and, consequently, impaired energy production.

The researchers then tried to stimulate the formation of new mitochondria, a process that involves a coenzyme called NAD. They added a from of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide riboside, a preliminary stage of the coenzyme, to the cells.