A CHEAP diabetes drug taken by millions of Britons every day could hold the secret to beating Alzheimer’s disease.
Research suggests that metformin can actually trigger the growth of new brain cells.
Not only this, it also appears to boost memory and spatial learning, both of which are affected in patients struck by the killer brain condition. Ground-breaking research opens up the real possibility that this common and well-tolerated drug – which costs just 2p per pill – could be a potent weapon in the battle to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, say experts.
Metformin has been safely used by millions of diabetics for more than 50 years to control blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes, an age and obesity-related condition.
A recent study by scientists at Dundee University showed that it also interferes with the formation of toxic “tangles” of protein which clog the brain in Alzheimer’s patients, destroying memory cells.
Now, scientists have found that mice taking metformin not only showed an increase in the birth of new neurons, they were also better able to learn the location of a hidden platform in a maze test of spatial learning. The findings are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
Freda Miller, of the University of Toronto Affiliated Hospital for Sick Children, said metformin may improve Alzheimer’s symptoms by enhancing brain repair.
Dr Eric Karran, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This well-conducted piece of research reveals a possible new biological effect for metformin, but work is still needed to determine how relevant the findings may be for Alzheimer’s disease.
“With half a million people affected by Alzheimer’s in the UK, we urgently need a treatment that can stop the disease in its tracks.”