The widely used diabetes drug metformin appears to encourage the growth of new brain cells, according to the results of a study published on July 6, 2012, in Cell Stem Cell
. New neural cells would have the potential to help repair the effects of many neurodegenerative disorders and brain injuries.
Based on their discovery of a pathway known as PKC-CBP that signals embryonic neural stem cells to make neurons, coupled with other research that found that this pathway was activated by metformin in liver cells, the researchers theorized that metformin would activate the same pathway in neural stem cells.
The researchers found development of new neurons in the brains of mice that were taking metformin. These mice also demonstrated enhanced ability to learn and remember the route through water mazes. Finally, the researchers found that metformin promoted differentiation and genesis of human and mouse neural stem cells in culture.
“As a next step, we would be interested to see if individuals with acquired brain injury might benefit from taking metformin,” said lead researcher Freda Miller, PhD, professor in the department of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, in a press release.
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