The diabetes medication metformin will be tested as a possible "anti-aging" drug in human trials next year as researchers try to determine if it can actually boost longevity.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given a green light for the trial on the drug, which is already being used to treat people with Type 2 diabetes, according to The Telegraph
Metformin reportedly increases oxygen molecules released into a cell, which seems to increase robustness and longevity. In earlier animal trials, mice treated with metformin increased their lifespan by almost 40 percent while roundworms aged slower and stayed healthier longer.
Nir Barzilai, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, told Nature
magazine that the clinical trial, called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME, would concentrate on people already suffering from one or two of three conditions – cancer, heart disease or cognitive impairment – or are at risk of them.
Barzilai said people being treated for Type 2 diabetes would not be allowed to enroll because metformin is already used to treat that disease.
"What we want to show is that if we delay aging, that's the best way to delay disease," Barzilai told Nature.
A 2014 study
published in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, a journal of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics, concluded that metformin was more effective than sulphonylurea in the survival rate of Type 2 diabetes patients.
"Patients with Type 2 diabetes initiated with metformin monotherapy had longer survival than did matched, non-diabetic controls," said the study. "Those treated with sulphonylurea had markedly reduced survival compared with both matched controls and those receiving metformin monotherapy. This supports the position of metformin as first-line therapy and implies that metformin may confer benefit in non-diabetes."
Gordon Lithgow, of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, told The Telegraph that scientists are just beginning to understand the mystery around aging, which is helping them create more effective drugs.
"If you target an aging process and you slow down aging then you slow down all the diseases and pathology of aging as well," said Lithgow. "That's revolutionary. That's never happened before. I have been doing research into aging for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-aging drug would have been thought inconceivable."
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