result of this study triggers hopes of providing treatment to brain injuries
and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
research involved laboratory experiments carried out on both mouse and human
brain stem cells grown in petri dishes. Learning and memory tests were also
performed on live mice that were given the drug.
was added to the stem cells from mice brains, after which the experiment was
repeated on human brain stem cells that were generated in the laboratory. It
was found that both the mice and human stem cells gave rise to new brain cells.
was then administered to live lab mice, when it was discovered that the rodents
administered with daily doses of the drug for a period of 2-3 weeks had an
increased spurt of brain cell growth. These mice also outperformed other mice,
who were not given metformin, in learning and memory tasks of which a standard
test employed was a water maze in which the mice were expected to swim around
until they located a hidden platform.
found that the metformin-treated animals were remarkably good at learning new
things much better than the controls (untreated mice). The mice that got the
metformin, showed increased flexibility in terms of the way they learned the
location of things. They could locate the platform even if it was moved to some
completely different place.,
investigator and senior scientist Freda Miller said it was the surprise element
that prompted the research team to carry out the study. A year and a half ago
they hit upon a signaling pathway known as PKC-CBP that instigated embryonic
neural stem cells to make brain cells. Around the same time, some U.S.
collaborators at Johns Hopkins University found that the same pathway was
activated by the drug metformin in liver cells to control sugar levels. Miller
believes that there is a lot of excitement among scientists about discovering a
drug that could recruit stem cells to produce healthy neurons in individuals
with neurodegenerative diseases, even if it is only to give people a slightly
healthier and longer life.
might just fit the bill but the catch is that the stem cells tend to age and
diminish along with the individual, and it is not very clear if there will be
adequate numbers of stem cells to produce enough brain cells to bring about a
therapeutic effect in those with neurodegenerative disorders.
bonus for researchers is that metformin has for long been prescribed for
treating a number of diseases, including metabolic disorders in children. It
has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties and has been used to treat
people of all ages, ranging from 7-107. Therefore this drug has been-researched
and tested and there is a lot of safety data available on it.
scientists are looking forward to conduct further research involving younger
patients with acquired brain damage. They are investigating the possibility of
making use of stem cells that normally reside in our brains and use drugs to
recruit them into becoming appropriate neural cell types; which will be capable
of promoting repair and recovery in at least some of the many brain disorders
and injuries for which we currently have no treatment.