Neuroprotective Effects of Thiamine and Precursors with Higher Bioavailability: Focus on Benfotiamine and Dibenzoylthiamine.
Thiamine (vitamin B1) is essential for brain function because of the coenzyme role of thiamine diphosphate (ThDP) in glucose and energy metabolism. In order to compensate thiamine deficiency, several thiamine precursors with higher bioavailability were developed since the 1950s. Among these, the thioester benfotiamine (BFT) has been extensively studied and has beneficial effects both in rodent models of neurodegeneration and in human clinical studies. BFT has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that seem to be mediated by a mechanism independent of the coenzyme function of ThDP. BFT has no adverse effects and improves cognitive outcome in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recent in vitro studies show that another thiamine thioester, dibenzoylthiamine (DBT) is even more efficient that BFT, especially with respect to its anti-inflammatory potency. Thiamine thioesters have pleiotropic properties linked to an increase in circulating thiamine concentrations and possibly in hitherto unidentified metabolites in particular open thiazole ring derivatives. The identification of the active neuroprotective derivatives and the clarification of their mechanism of action open extremely promising perspectives in the field of neurodegenerative, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions.