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Papers of the Week

2021 Apr 22

Clin Drug Investig

Riboflavin in Neurological Diseases: A Narrative Review.


Plantone D, Pardini M, Rinaldi G
Clin Drug Investig. 2021 Apr 22.
PMID: 33886098.


Riboflavin is classified as one of the water-soluble B vitamins. It is part of the functional group of flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) cofactors and is required for numerous flavoprotein-catalysed reactions. Riboflavin has important antioxidant properties, essential for correct cell functioning. It is required for the conversion of oxidised glutathione to the reduced form and for the mitochondrial respiratory chain as complexes I and II contain flavoprotein reductases and electron transferring flavoproteins. Riboflavin deficiency has been demonstrated to impair the oxidative state of the body, especially in relation to lipid peroxidation status, in both animal and human studies. In the nervous system, riboflavin is essential for the synthesis of myelin and its deficiency can determine the disruption of myelin lamellae. The inherited condition of restricted riboflavin absorption and utilisation, reported in about 10-15% of world population, warrants further investigation in relation to its association with the main neurodegenerative diseases. Several successful trials testing riboflavin for migraine prevention were performed, and this drug is currently classified as a Level B medication for migraine according to the American Academy of Neurology evidence-based rating, with evidence supporting its efficacy. Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere syndrome and Fazio-Londe diseases are now renamed as "riboflavin transporter deficiency" because these are autosomal recessive diseases caused by mutations of SLC52A2 and SLC52A3 genes that encode riboflavin transporters. High doses of riboflavin represent the mainstay of the therapy of these diseases and high doses of riboflavin should be rapidly started as soon as the diagnosis is suspected and continued lifelong. Remarkably, some mitochondrial diseases respond to supplementation with riboflavin. These include multiple acyl-CoA-dehydrogenase deficiency (which is caused by ETFDH gene mutations in the majority of the cases, or mutations in the ETFA and ETFB genes in a minority), mutations of ACAD9 gene, mutations of AIFM1 gene, mutations of the NDUFV1 and NDUFV2 genes. Therapeutic riboflavin administration has been tried in other neurological diseases, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, Friedreich's ataxia and Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, the design of these clinical trials was not uniform, not allowing to accurately assess the real effects of this molecule on the disease course. In this review we analyse the properties of riboflavin and its possible effects on the pathogenesis of different neurological diseases, and we will review the current indications of this vitamin as a therapeutic intervention in neurology.