Imagine if you could apply the brakes to your aging?
That’s exactly what a team of researchers from across the country hopes to begin exploring in the largest clinical trial of its kind testing the greater power of the most common diabetes drug metformin.
UConn Center of Aging at UConn Health is one of the 14 planned study sites for the TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin) clinical trial led by Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Dr. Nir Barzilai and colleagues from Wake Forest School of Medicine.
The clinical trial hopes to track 3,000 nondiabetic people ages 65 to 79, with half receiving placebo and half with the potential medication, to test the most popular type 2 diabetes drug’s ability to slow development of a cluster of aging-related diseases such as cancer, dementia and cardiovascular diseases.
On Oct. 25-26 researchers will gather to discuss the potentially transformative research project aimed at controlling the effects of aging at the upcoming Forum on Healthcare Innovation at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine on UConn Health’s Farmington, Connecticut campus. Panelists include TAME’s principal investigator Barzilai of Einstein College of Medicine, Jay Olshansky, Ph.D. of the University of Illinois and Dr. George Kuchel, director of the UConn Center on Aging and TAME study co-investigator. The two-day forum will focus on this and other emerging science and technology that will change the future of healthcare with keynote speaker Francis Collins, director of the NIH.
In patients with type 2 diabetes the metformin is used as a glucose eater absorbing the extra circulating insulin in their body overproduced by the pancreas, but it has also been shown to target specific pathways known to be involved in biological aging. The drug has an excellent safety record and since it has gone generic it only costs a few cents to produce. It was FDA approved in 1994 in the U.S. but has been the most popular diabetes drug worldwide since the 1950s.
“By far the biggest single risk factor for a person’s development of chronic disease is aging,” says Kuchel of the UConn Center on Aging. “Our thinking is that if we can successfully target the underlying known cellular pathways shared by aging and such diseases with a simple oral medication we could potentially slow the aging process.”
While aging is not considered a disease, the goal of the study is to see if this type of a drug can actually help maintain an aging individual’s “health span.” This is the time a person lives free of chronic illness. The hope is to slow the onset or advancement of varied chronic diseases to maintain the body’s healthy state for as long as possible.
“The goal of geriatric medicine doctors is always healthy longevity and independence for each of our patients as they age,” says Kuchel.
Previous human clinical trial studies have proven the glucose eating metformin’s ability to reduce type 2 diabetes and all diabetes-related complications including death by more than 30 percent. In addition, it may lower heart disease, heart attack and stroke, and it is suggested it may play a beneficial role in cancer and improving cognitive function such as memory.
Recent mouse model research examining metformin’s anti-aging potential have shown it increases mean lifespan of female mice by greater than 40 percent. Also, it has shown evidence to target cellular pathways affecting cellular growth, inflammation and metabolism, and delay cancer’s growth and improve lifespan in breast cancer and other disease states.
“If metformin is proven effective in slowing aging in humans, it and future drugs could be quite transformational and revolutionary,” says Kuchel. “Aging in our country and around the world has a great toll on the quality of life of patients and brings with it a great economic burden on countries. Slowing aging and the development of disease could have a dramatic effect on healthcare delivery and costs.”
Kuchel adds: “We are very excited for this research project to start soon.”
For more information on the upcoming Forum on Healthcare Innovation happening Oct. 25-26, visit: www.cthealthforums.com.