This Popular Diabetes Drug Could Become Our Fountain Of Youth

Metformin is about to be tested as an anti-aging drug on humans.
Sungjin Kim via Getty Images

Memo to scientists: It's not how long we live, it's how healthy and well we are when we are doing it. Racking up candles on the birthday cake isn't likely anybody's goal; being able to live healthy and productive lives is what most people are shooting for.

All of which makes what's going to happen in 2016 a big deal: Metformin, a drug that already has been widely used to treat diabetes for about 60 years, will be tested on humans for its anti-aging properties. Metformin has been seen, by some, as the fountain of youth that many seek.

Over our lifetimes, our cells divide in order to keep our bodies functioning properly. The more times a cell divides, the more chances there are for an error in the process. In the case of cancer, these mutations increase and the body can no longer repair the damage, causing tumors to grow. In Alzheimer's, the brain can no longer clear out plaque and dementia develops.

Metformin increases the number of oxygen molecules released into a cell, which appears to boost robustness and longevity.

The Food and Drug Administration has green-lighted a clinical trial in the U.S. for what has become known as the Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME) study. The researchers will give Metformin to about 3,000 elderly people who either suffer from or have a high risk of developing diseases like cancer, heart disease, or cognitive problems. They'll then track them over six years to see if the drug prevents aging-related diseases they don't already have, prevents diabetes and lengthens their life spans. It will be a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

In 2005, an observational study found a link between Metformin and a 23 percent decreased risk of any cancer in diabetic patients. Furthermore, when Belgian researchers tested Metformin on roundworms, the worms aged slower and stayed healthier longer. They did not slow down or develop wrinkles, noted the Telegraph. Mice given Metformin increased their lifespan by nearly 40 percent, and they also developed stronger bones. Last year, Cardiff University found that diabetics taking Metformin lived longer than those without the condition, even though diabetics die on average eight years sooner.

Interesting stuff.

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