A new study published in the most recent issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell has found another link between the diabetes drug metformin and the reduction of certain factors that lead to Alzheimer's disease. Specifically, scientists were able to establish a connection between use of the drug and the activation of certain pathways in the brain that encourage new cell growth and improved function. Researcher Freda Miller, who worked on the study, told MyHealthNewsDaily that the findings could be used in the future to treat Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses.
Metformin, which was developed to work along pathways in the liver to repair damage, appears to travel the same pathways in the brain, with similar effect. It reportedly works by causing existing cells to divide, creating new ones. While Miller's initial study involved mice, there are reportedly similar results being found in human brain cell cultures as well.
Last week's announcement is not the first time that metformin has been put forward as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's. In 2010, researchers working through the auspices of the University of Dundee in Scotland released the results of a study that found that metformin appeared to reduce the formation of "tangles" of certain toxic proteins that build up in the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, according to a BBC News report at the time. While this study was also conducted on mice, it showed that metformin may have potential as a preventative treatment as well.
Metformin is not the only diabetes drug being examined for its effects on Alzheimer's disease. Another study released in 2010 found that the diabetes drug liraglutide may prove useful in the prevention of Alzheimer's as well, by controlling insulin. According to the Huffington Post, the link between a person having type 2 diabetes and an elevated risk of developing dementia is well-established.
For now, however, metformin is still getting the bulk of the attention. It is one of the older treatments for type 2 diabetes available, and as such, has had time to establish a solid safety record. This record, according to the BBC News report, could mean that metformin would have an easier go of it in regards to future clinical trials, as it has already been proven safe for humans.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, who frequently covers health and nutrition news.
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- type 2 diabetes