Both basic science and clinical studies support the use of the common diabetes drug, metformin, as a potential ‘anti-ageing’ drug.
Researchers from the Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, United States, have been investigating specific cellular pathways that are associated with longevity, in an effort to find drugs that could be used to extend both a person’s healthspan and lifespan.
One particular drug of interest is metformin, which is commonly used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Research in animal models has investigated the drugs’ effect on longevity, finding that treatment with metformin can increase the lifespan of rodents and nematodes (a type of worm). A study on mice, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that long-term treatment with metformin increased both healthspan and lifespan of the mice. This study reported that metformin treatment improved physical performance and insulin sensitivity of the mice, in addition to lowering the levels of LDL-cholesterol, without a change in diet. The mechanisms found to be associated with these effects were increases in antioxidants that had an overall effect of reducing oxidative damage and chronic inflammation.
The results of these experimental studies have provided a basis for further clinical research using metformin as an ‘anti-ageing’ drug. Various clinical studies have provided some evidence that metformin may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. While there are currently studies addressing the potential of metformin to protect against these diseases, there is also a study that is currently recruiting participants to assess the effects of metformin on healthspan and lifespan. As part of the study, researchers will collect muscle and fat biopsies to determine whether treatment with metformin alters gene expression in these tissues. The researchers suggest that by assessing the gene expression patterns they will be able to determine whether metformin does in fact alter tissues to a ‘younger’ profile, providing further support for use of metformin as an ‘anti-ageing’ drug. Participants over the age of 60 years are currently being recruited by the Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
Clinicaltrials.gov “Metformin in Longevity Study (MILES)” Available from” https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02432287?term=metformin+AND+ageing&rank=1 Last Accessed: November 30, 2015.
Martin-Montalvo, A., Mercken, E.M., Mitchell, S.J., Palacios, H.H., Mote, P.L., Scheibye-Knudsen, M., Gomes, A.P., Ward, T.M., Minor, R.K., Blouin, M.J., Schwab, M., Pollak, M., Zhang, Y., Yu, Y., Becker, K.G., Bohr, V.A., Ingram, D.K., Sinclair, D.A., Wolf, N.S., Spindler, S.R., Bernier, M. & de Cabo, R. Metformin improves healthspan and lifespan in mice. Nat Commun 4, 2192 (2013). PMCID: 3736576.
Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD