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Study finds diabetes drug extends health and lifespan of mice

July 31, 2013
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Male mice had a healthier and longer lifespan when given the drug metformin at middle age in international study led by researchers at the National Institute of Aging (NIA).

Metformin, a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, has been around since the 1960s and has been available as a generic since 2002. According to a National Institutes of Health release, metformin will “enhance insulin sensitivity, prompt sugar to be converted to energy and prevent sugar build up in the liver.” It also may reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer, the release adds.

Male mice that were given 0.1 percent metformin exhibited an improvement in general fitness and energy. Mice that received a 1 percent dose had a shorter lifespan that was attributed to renal failure. A control group was fed a standard diet and did not receive the drug.

Because metformin helped metabolize the fat into energy, the 0.1 percent group consumed more calories, but weighed less than the control group. The metformin mice also had a lower incidence of cataracts. While the results of the animal study are promising, more research is needed to see if there is a similar result in human, according to an article.

“There is an increasing interest in exploring how drugs for one use might be repurposed for another. 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,” said Richard J. Hodes, MD, director of the NIA in a release.