What is uridine?

Uridine is a natural substance produced by the liver and classified as a nucleoside, which means that it is a compound that contains a nucleic acid with a pyrimidine base that has been attached to the alcohol group of a sugar. Specifically, uridine is a nucleoside of uracil, a primary component of ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is involved in protein synthesis in the body. This occurs when uracil binds with ribofuranose, the simple sugar that resides in RNA. This compound is more receptive to the addition of various phosphate groups to form one of the three nucleotides, agents involved in the regulation of metabolism. It can also form deoxyuridine from a bond between uracil and the sugar deoxyribose, but this compound rarely occurs naturally in living organisms.

Researchers have found that uridine may have potential benefit in the treatment of a number of medical conditions. For example, several clinical trials with cancer patients indicate that supplementation with this compound can help offset the toxic effects of chemotherapy. There is also evidence to suggest that this substance may help prevent cell damage and liver dysfunction associated with a class of HIV drugs known collectively as AZT. However, it should be noted that most of the testing regarding the latter application has been done in vitro and not in human subjects.

Other conditions for which therapy with this substance is being considered include the treatment of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder and depression. In fact, animal studies focused on the antidepressant effects of combined uridine and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation have shown promising results that are comparable to the efficacy of conventional medications. These studies have led at least two US pharmaceutical companies to investigate the future potential of treating these and other disorders with triacetyluridine (TAU), a drug initially named PN401, which is converted to uridine in the body.

Additional studies and tests include the use of uridine in combination with omega 3 fatty acids, cytidine and choline to help prevent age-related dementia. A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) discovered that these nutrients stimulate the production of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine. While virtually every cell in the body requires these two phospholipids for normal function, they are critical for neurotransmission in the brain. Furthermore, Turkish scientists have found that supplementation exhibits these effects without decreasing acetylcholine release, a characteristic associated with age-related dementia.

Natural sources include tomatoes, sugar beets, broccoli, meats, molasses, and brewer's yeast. It is also a component of human breast milk. Unfortunately, with the exception of breast milk and yeast, the human body does not readily absorb dietary sources of this substance. However, beer lovers may be happy to learn that their beverage of choice increases serum uridine levels, likely due to its yeast content. Attempting to raise available levels of this nutrient by consuming large amounts of beer or yeast can also increase purine levels and increase uric acid production, as well as other health problems associated with alcohol abuse.

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