Jul 6, 2012

Can Metformin Cure Alzheimer's Disease?

Metformin is a diabetes drug that is readily available via prescription. Can it be used to treat Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's Reading Room

Can Metformin Cure Alzheimer's Disease?
The question here is, Can the drug Metformin repair the damage done by Alzheimer's disease? No.

However, it might become a potential treatment for Alzheimer's. But, not any time soon.

The interesting and exciting part of this research is how it unfolded. The researchers showed that metformin could enhance the development of mature nerve cells from stem cells. This works with human brain cells in the laboratory, and in mice. This has not actually been tested in humans.

In addition, this is not Alzheimer's research. However, you could make a giant leap and hypothesize that this might work with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

There might be some excitement in the Alzheimer's community because you can buy this drug right now, and it appears that it does enhance memory in mice.

Keep in mind, there is no evidence in any of this research that Alzheimer's could be reversed. It appears that the drug can help existing brain cells to divide and produce new brain cells.

The video below is very good, and walks you right through the process of this research up to this point. It is worth viewing.

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Common diabetes drug promotes development of brain stem cells
SickKids researchers suggest metformin helps produce new brain cells and enhance memory

Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have found that metformin, a drug commonly used to treat Type II diabetes, can help trigger the pathway used to instruct stem cells in the brain to become neural (nerve) cells. Brain stem cells and the neural cells they generate play a role in the repair of the injured or degenerating brain. This study suggests a novel therapeutic approach to treating people with brain injuries or potentially even neurodegenerative diseases.

The study – led by Dr. Freda Miller, Senior Scientist at SickKids and Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto – is published in the July 5 advance online edition of Cell Stem Cell.

“If you could take stem cells that normally reside in our brains and somehow use drugs to recruit them into becoming appropriate neural cell types, then you may be able to promote repair and recovery in at least some of the many brain disorders and injuries for which we currently have no treatment,” says Miller.

The research team says it was serendipity that led them to this study. About a year and a half ago, they found a pathway known as PKC-CBP that signalled embryonic neural stem cells to make neurons. Around the same time their collaborators from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that the same pathway was activated by metformin in liver cells; this was how metformin controlled glucose levels. On the basis of these findings, Miller’s team thought that perhaps metformin would activate the same pathway in neural stem cells, and would provide a way to enhance neural stem cell function in the brain.

Their hunch turned out to be correct. The researchers found metformin promoted differentiation of human and mouse neural stem cells in culture. In adult mice, metformin was found to increase the development of new neurons in the brain and when mice performed water maze tests, metformin was found to increase their ability to learn and remember.

Because metformin is already a commonly-used drug, clinical trials may not be very far off. “As a next step, we would be interested to see if individuals with acquired brain injury might benefit from taking metformin,” says Miller.

Funding was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Stem Cell Network, the Three To Be Foundation, the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and SickKids Foundation.

About The Hospital for Sick Children

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

About SickKids Centre for Research and Learning

The SickKids Centre for Research and Learning will bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines and a variety of clinical perspectives, to accelerate discoveries, new knowledge and their application to child health — a different concept from traditional research building designs. For more information, please visit www.sickkidsfoundation.com/bepartofit.

This article is very good -- Diabetes drug metformin 'could aid Alzheimer's'

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room