Metformin diabetes drug could mend injured brains

Mon, 09 Jul 2012
The widely used diabetes medication metformin may help treat people with Alzheimer's disease in the near future after new research found it has positive side effects for brain health .

Researchers from Canada and the US tested the common type 2 diabetes medication on a group of mice. After injecting them with the drug, they found that new nerve cells developed in the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

They also reported that the mice became better at navigating a 'water maze', with improvements seen in their ability to find a hidden platform in the maze - a sign of improved cognitive ability.

The findings, which were published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell, suggest this potential new health benefit of metformin could be used to improve symptoms of Alzheimers disease, such as memory loss.

The scientists explained that metformin stimulates a unique pathway known as aPKC-CBP in neural stem cells of the brain to encourage brain repair. Previous research showed that it also activates the same pathway in the liver to control blood glucose levels.

Lead author Dr Freda Miller said: "A 2008 study found that patients with both diabetes and Alzheimer's who began taking metformin experienced improvements in their Alzheimer's symptoms after starting on the drug. It was thought that treating the patients' diabetes had effects on the body that helped improve their Alzheimer's, but the new study suggests the change in brain function was due to the drug itself."

He added that the next step is to determine whether metformin can help repair the brains of patients who have suffered a brain injury as a result of trauma or radiation treatment for cancer .
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