Should we include aging as a disease

29.06.2015 10:30

Stop Age-Related Diseases and Extend Life: Metformin Study Planned

Medicine - communication Medical communication
Working group of the scientific medical societies

Bochum - In addition to diabetes, the most common diseases in old age include heart attacks, cancer and dementia. American researchers want to find out in a study whether the diabetes drug metformin can extend the life of nondiabetics and delay age-related diseases. The tablets used for 60 years have shown in previous studies that it helps prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The German Society for Endocrinology (DGE) is skeptical about the suspected positive effects and advises waiting for ongoing studies.

In mid-June, the journal “Nature” published an article about the planned TAME study with the diabetes drug Metformin (Targeting Aging with Metformin), which aims to investigate whether this drug can also extend the life span of non-diabetics and age-related diseases such as cancer and heart disease and memory disorders. The American FDA is now to decide whether this study will be carried out. Professor Dr. med. Dr. H. c. Helmut Schatz, media spokesman for the German Society for Endocrinology, comments: "It would be the first time that the FDA approves a study on a drug that is not used to prevent, treat or cure a disease." If drugs are used, for life to prolong and postpone age-related illnesses, categories are changing. Aging as an irreversible biological process is turning into a treatable disease, as it were, points out Professor Schatz.

The study will include up to 3,000 people between the ages of 70 and 80 who already suffer from one of the three diseases that occur more frequently in old age: coronary heart disease, cancer or cognitive disorders (memory, thinking, perception and others Disorders up to dementia). People with diabetes will not be included in the study, as an influence on aging and diseases by influencing the glucose metabolism, as is the case with diabetes patients through metformin, should be excluded. The aim of the study is to find out whether metformin can directly prevent age-associated diseases and postpone death.

The oral antidiabetic drug metformin has been used successfully in the treatment of type 2 diabetes for 60 years. "It is not surprising that metformin, of all things, was selected from among the drugs suspected of having 'anti-aging effects'", says Professor Schatz. There are many indications that the drug from the group of biguanides is not only beneficial for diabetes. The GLINT study is currently investigating prospectively whether it can prevent heart disease or cancer in non-diabetics. Metformin has already been shown to have positive effects on health and life span in worms and some strains of mice. However, there is also evidence that the use of metformin can sometimes be associated with vitamin B12 deficiency and cognitive impairment.

Resveratrol, which is found in red wine, for example, and rapamycin, which is used to prevent rejection reactions after organ transplants, are also among the substances to which a “life extension” is ascribed. A life-extension study with rapamycin is currently underway in dogs. However, a short diet also has a positive effect on the lifespan. "The easiest thing to do is to eat less, that is, to reduce your calorie intake," says the DGE media spokesman.

Even if the idea is tempting to postpone diseases of old age with medication and to prolong life in general, the question of the long-term side effects of the substances always remains with “medication against aging”. Naturally, this can only be recognized after many years and decades. The media spokesman for the DGE therefore recommends living sensibly, exercising a lot and as outdoors as possible, and staying moderate when eating.

E. Check Hayden: Anti-aging pill pushed as bona fide drug. Nature 2015; Vol 522; Pp. 265-266. doi: 10.1038 / 522265a
H. Schatz: Metformin - where is the evidence? Rury Holman from Oxford: "The evidence is unclear". DGE blog post from September 19, 2014.
E. M. Moore et al .: Increased risk of cognitive impairment in patients with diabetes is associated with metformin. Diabetes Care 2013. 36: 3850.

Endocrinology is the study of hormones, metabolism and diseases in this field. Endocrine glands, such as the thyroid or pituitary gland, but also certain cells in the testes and ovaries, release endocrine disrupting hormones, which means they are released “inwards” into the blood. In contrast to this, "exocrine" glands, such as salivary or sweat glands, release their secretions "outside".

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Contact for journalists:
German Society for Endocrinology (DGE)
Dagmar Arnold
P.O. Box 30 11 20
70451 Stuttgart
Phone: 0711 8931-380
Fax: 0711 8931-167
[email protected]

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Research / knowledge transfer