Research highlight

Ageing: A common drug extends the life of mice

Nature Communications

July 31, 2013

The commonly prescribed anti-diabetes drug metformin leads to a healthier and longer life in male mice, a study published in Nature Communications reports.

Metformin has been prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome since the 1960s. Epidemiological studies have linked its use with a decreased incidence of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, both of which tend to occur more frequently with age. Previous work has shown that metformin can extend the lifespan of lower model organisms such as worms, but studies in flies and mammals have yielded conflicting evidence. Rafael de Cabo and colleagues administered one of two different doses of metformin to middle-aged male mice and now show that lower doses increase lifespan by about 5%, and delay the onset of age-associated diseases. They show that the mice that lived longer had reduced levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, which resembles some of the molecular effects of caloric restriction - a dietary regimen known to extend lifespan of various model organisms. They note, however, that the higher dose of metformin was toxic and reduced the lifespan of mice.

The authors caution that serum levels of metformin that led to mice living longer were about 10 times higher than those usually observed in patients taking the drug. Further studies are also required to determine whether metformin similarly improves health span and lifespan in humans.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms3192

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