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Metformin a Fountain of Youth?
Long-term treatment with the type 2 diabetes drug metformin improved the health and longevity of male mice when started at middle age, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA). The study, which tested two doses of the drug in the male mice, found the higher dose to be toxic in the animals. The scientists emphasized that considerably more research is needed before the implications of metformin for healthy aging are known for humans.
The new study was published in Nature Communications.
“There is increasing interest in exploring how drugs for one use might be repurposed for another,” notes Richard J. Hodes, MD, director of the NIA. “It is exciting to discover that a drug already known to be safe and effective in humans might be further studied for a possible, alternate use for healthy aging.”
Prescribed since the 1960s to treat type 2 diabetes, metformin is known to enhance insulin sensitivity, to prompt sugar to be converted to energy, and to prevent sugar build-up in the liver. It also reduces the risk of health issues associated with metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by an increased chance for heart disease and stroke, as well as type 2 diabetes.
In the new study, researchers found male mice on a 0.1% metformin treatment had a 5.83% increase in lifespan compared with control-group mice on a standard diet with no metformin. A 1% metformin treatment had the opposite effect. These mice had a 14.4% shorter lifespan compared with the control group, likely due to kidney failure. The lower metformin dose did not seem to cause any negative effect on the renal system.
The 0.1% treatment also showed a clear health benefit. These mice had improved general fitness and weighed less than the control mice, despite consuming more calories.
Source: NIA; July 30, 2013.