Researchers at McMaster University have uncovered one of the secrets behind the many benefits of metformin. One of the most widely used drugs in the world; metformin is commonly used for type 2 diabetes. However, in addition to its blood sugar-lowering effect, metformin has shown benefits in preclinical models for aging and many other diseases such as cognitive impairment, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. One question that researchers have been asking is how to achieve this. The lots of year study conducted by McMaster science and clinical researchers has found that metformin induces the secretion and expression of a protein called GDF15 or growth differentiation factor 15.
The findings were published today in Natural Metabolism. Gregory Steinberg, McMaster’s senior author and professor of medicine stated that research over the past two decades has shown that metformin does more than lower blood sugar, but they don’t know why. He is also co-director of the McMaster Center for Metabolic, Diabetes and Obesity Research. The idea they entered into this study was that metformin may communicate with other tissues in the body by causing the liver to secrete proteins. When they discovered that metformin caused GDF15 secretion, they were very surprised. It is known for suppressing appetite.
The research team applied this knowledge to mice to better understand the science behind the results. The researchers deleted the gene that makes growth differentiation factor 15 in mice and then treated it with metformin. The output showed that mice without growth differentiation factor 15 did not lose diet or lose weight despite taking metformin, demonstrating that GDF15 is a link between weight loss and metformin. The researchers say these findings open up many research avenues. Currently, there are more than 1,500 registered clinical trials to test the effects of metformin on aging and other diseases. Steinberger said that it is necessary to study the possibility that GDF15 plays a role in multiple beneficial effects such as aging or cancer in metformin treatment.