Metformin, the most commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, has an excellent overall record of safety and effectiveness. But while researchers have identified many biological mechanisms that this drug activates, they still aren’t sure about all of the ways it helps lower blood glucose levels — or what other beneficial effects it might have when it comes to biological processes.
So a recent study that looked at metformin’s effects on cellular processes in the body could prove to be the starting point for learning much more about how this drug works. Published in the journal Cell Reports, the study was a broad analysis of the effects of the drug in the livers of genetically engineered mice.
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As noted in an article on the study at ScienceDaily, metformin was found to activate a surprising number of cellular processes. These include two pathways — previously not identified with metformin — that are believed to be related to cellular stress, which may explain possible anti-aging benefits from taking the drug. Several large-scale clinical trials, the article notes, are currently looking at possible life- and health-extending effects from metformin.
The researchers plan to build on this research by exploring the newly identified biochemical pathways in greater detail, in an effort to better understand how they might lead to beneficial health effects. But if these further studies and clinical trials suggest that metformin has major health benefits beyond lowering blood glucose, the drug could be prescribed to a much broader population — possibly even as a general anti-aging treatment.
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.