Human trial on anti-ageing drug metformin to start next year
IT has been used to control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes since the 1940s, but scientists have stumbled across another use for the diabetic wonder drug, metformin — it slows the ageing process.
Scientists believe the drug could also effectively remit Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Their theory will be put to the test when the drug enters a human trial phase next year in the US.
The clinical trial will be called TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin), with scientists from different institutions from across America recruiting 3000 human volunteers to take part in the research.
Volunteers will be restricted to 70 to 80 years old, who have or are at risk of dementia, heart disease and cancer.
If the trial is successful, a 70-year-old participant is expected to be as biologically healthy as a 50-year-old.
It has long been known that metformin can effectively extend the life span of animals.
When metformin was tested on tiny roundworm C.elegans by researchers in Belgium, they found the worms aged slower and stayed healthier longer. It was also found that metformin could increase a mouse’s life span by almost 40 per cent, and could increase the strength of their bones.
Then a study last year found diabetic patients taking metformin lived longer than those without the condition, despite people with diabetes dying eight years earlier on average.
The Food and Drug Administration in America has now green-lit the trial to see if it could be replicated in humans.
Study adviser Professor Gordon Lithgow from the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing in California said slowing down the ageing process will also slow down diseases and pathology related to ageing as well.
Easy work ... Slowing the ageing process could be as simple as taking a tablet. Picture: istockSource:Supplied
“That’s revolutionary — that’s never happened before,” he said.
“I have been doing research into ageing for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-ageing drug would have been thought inconceivable. But there is every reason to believe it’s possible.”
Professor Lithgow said curing all cancers would only raise life expectancy by around three years but slowing the ageing process could have a much bigger impact.
“We know that it is possible for handfuls of people to live to very old age and still be physically and socially active, so clearly they carry some kind of protection in their bodies. They are essentially not ageing as quickly. If we can harness that, then everyone can achieve those lifespans.”
Life expectancy in Australia for people born in 2014 was 80.3-years-old for men and 84.4 for women, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. But the scientists believe those figures can be increased by almost 50 per cent.
Metformin has also been pinpointed as a treatment for kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, gestational diabetes and cancer.