30 years, this is how much longer life we could all live with a drug that millions of people are already using, according to researchers.
Even if there if there is much research on aging, with discoveries made every so often concerning telomeres, FOXO3A, mTOR, free radicals etc. The only way of prolonging life is yet o treat the diseases that afflict us as we get older – such as cancer, dementia and heart disease. But now a team of researchers has put forward a way to treat aging itself.
Recently, researchers found that a treatment for old age is already standing in the medicine cabinet of millions of people worldwide. As it turns out that a relatively common diabetes pill increases longevity by 18 percent. This Type 2 diabetes medicine is called metformin and was discovered in 1922 already, it was introduced as a medication in France in 1957 and the United States in 1995.
In 2014, researchers from Cardiff University in the UK compared the health of more than 78,000 diabetes patients who took this particular medication with about 90,000 healthy individuals. They discovered that those who had diabetes – a serious disease that among other things can lead to heart disease and damage to nerves and kidneys – lived 18 percent longer than those who belonged to the healthy group. This result goes against everything that scientists thought they knew, and the only explanation is that metformin appears to prolong life.
Metformin upregulates the insulin-dependent so-called ‘Glucose transporter type 4’, which leads to more sugar being absorbed from the bloodstream and it also inhibits gluconeogenesis in the liver, which means that less new sugar is created. The medicine has also been shown to suppress inflammation.
Another study on mice in 2014 found that metformin increased the animals’ antioxidant responses to stress, and reduced inflammation, which possibly plays a role in the drug’s apparent ability to prolong life span. The researchers observed that it appeared to mimic some of the effects of caloric restriction, such as reducing cholesterol levels and increasing expression of certain genes.
American Professor Nir Barzilai will now test metformin on elderly people. He believes that not only can the pill give us 30 more years – but that the substance also protects brain cells against Alzheimer’s and strengthens our ability to think by up to 30 percent.
“If metformin can target and delay aging, its administration should be associated with fewer age-related diseases in general, rather than merely the decreased incidence of a single disease,” Barzilai and colleagues wrote in a study published in the June 2016 issue of Cell Metabolism. “Data from several randomized clinical trials and multiple observational studies provide evidence for such an effect, which would not be expected from glucose lowering alone.”
The study launched by Barzilai is called “Targeting Aging with Metformin”. Dr. Barzilai and his colleagues will select and randomize 3,000 elderly people in their 70s and 80s who either have or are at risk of having major diseases. They will look at the onset and types of diseases and evaluate whether metformin changes the rate of aging.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the trial began during the winter of 2016, and will likely take five to seven years. Based on the results of the trial, the team will work with the FDA to approve metformin as a possible treatment for aging so that pharmaceutical companies can try to develop versions of the drug that are safe for chronic use among patients without diabetes.
Nir Barzilai held this Ted talk back in 2014 titled ‘How to die young at a very old age’.
Sarah E. Holden, Sara Jenkins-Jones, Craig J. CurrieAssociation between insulin monotherapy versus insulin plus metformin and the risk of all-cause mortality and other serious outcomes: a retrospective cohort study