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Metformin boost for inflammaging research

Researchers use metformin to repair broken cell machinery and drastically lower dangerous inflammation.

Inflammaging is one of the latest Longevity buzzwords; it has been around since the early 2000s, but recent focus on the love/hate relationship Longevity has with inflammation has really thrown it back into the spotlight.

Longevity.Technology: Metformin has become the Tom Hanks of the Longevity world – success after success and a box office guarantee. Although the research addressed in this article focusses on using metformin to ameliorate inflammaging is in its infancy, there is a weight of evidence for the safety and efficacy of metformin that we consider will help speed work in this area.

Inflammation is two-faced; it’s vital for healing and beneficial when it stems from exercise, but inflammation, especially out-of-control inflammation, can lead to cancer, decreased immune activity, loss of mobility, weight gain, cognitive degeneration, as well as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

University of Kentucky College of Medicine: Metformin function

Inflammaging refers to the chronic low-grade inflammation that develops as we age. Closely associated with age-related morbidity and mortality, it is thought to accelerate the process of biological aging and to worsen many age-related diseases.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky were able to use the type 2 diabetes drug metformin to repair broken cell machinery in cells that had been manipulated to mimic the inflammation in cells of 60-year-olds.

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Metformin has been hailed as something of a Longevity wonder-drug of late; its use in medical practice extends back into the Middle Ages, where it was extracted from the French lilac and since the relevant compound was isolated in the 1950s, it has been successfully used by diabetics. Metformin gained FDA approval 1994 and will be the subject of Nir Barzilai’s five-year in-depth clinical trial – TAME – that aims to assess it as an anti-aging drug.

The Kentucky research team found that because they were using specially-manipulated cells, they were able to identify specific breakdowns in the cellular machinery that causes age-related inflammation and that metformin was able to repair these breakdowns.

In addition, the metformin “increased autophagy in CD4+ T cells from older subjects and shifted measures of mitochondrial bioenergetics and T cell inflammation [1].” Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells, leaving room for the regeneration of newer, healthier cells.

The research team now plan to test whether metformin lowers age-related inflammation to promote healthy aging in a series of clinical trials.

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413120301972

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Image courtesy of University of Kentucky College of Medicine
Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.
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