People taking popular drug metformin to treat their diabetes might have noticed that they are getting smarter and that their memory is suddenly much better. No surprise there. Scientists from the University of Toronto-affiliated Hospital for Sick Children found that metformin encourages new neurons to grow in the brain.
Old drug in the new role
The leader of the study Freda Miller is known for her work on the aPKC-CBP pathway, which tells neural stem cells to become mature neurons. She found that the same pathway plays role in the way drug metformin works in liver cells. The study shows great promise for the development of therapies to repair the damage to the brain by enticing present cells to work instead of introducing new stem cells.
The study was conducted on mice. Mice taking metformin had increased number of newly born neurons, and were much better at standard tests used for special learning.
No need to wait
There are already some reports of the improvements in Alzheimer’s patients who are taking metformin for their diabetes, but the improvements were thought to be caused by better diabetes control.
This discovery is particularly important because metformin is already available and there is no need for waiting for the approval. It is widely used and found to be completely safe. Researches are planning on testing metformin for possible use in repairing brains damaged by trauma or radiation therapy. It is only a matter of time before someone tries to find out if metformin can be used to make healthy people smarter.