Pill linked to long life in mice

Lab mice Mouse studies gave "promising" results

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A diabetes pill has anti-ageing effects and extends the life of male mice, research suggests.

Scientists believe the drug, metformin, may mimic the effects of extreme calorie restriction.

This regime, which is based on eating a very low calorie diet, is thought to promote healthy ageing.

The human implications of the study are unclear, the researchers report in the journal, Nature Communications.

Rafael de Cabo, of the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore, Maryland, US, said calorie restriction in laboratory animals had been shown to increase their lifespan.

His team is searching for interventions - such as a drug - that can mimic these effects.

Start Quote

Right now the best that we can say is probably what your grandmother told you... eat a good diet and exercise”

End Quote Dr Rafael de Cabo National Institute on Ageing

Metformin is one of the most widely prescribed treatments for type-2 diabetes, which occurs mainly in people above the age of 40. It is also used to treat metabolic syndrome, a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Previous work has shown that metformin can extend the lifespan of simple organisms such as worms, but studies in flies and mammals have given conflicting evidence.

The scientists gave one of two different doses of metformin to middle-aged male mice and found that lower doses increased lifespan by about 5%, and also delayed the onset of age-associated diseases. But they said the higher dose of metformin was toxic and reduced the lifespan of mice.

Further studies were needed to determine if metformin has any effect on human health and lifespan, said Dr de Cabo.

"These are very promising results that need to be translated to humans via clinical studies," he said.

He said the best current advice was to eat a good diet and exercise.

"Right now the best that we can say is probably what your grandmother told you," he told BBC News.

"Eat a good diet and exercise are the only two things that we know for sure that they work very well in humans."

'Note of caution'

Prof Tom Kirkwood, associate dean for ageing at Newcastle University, said it is unclear what the study might mean for human health.

"Metformin is a well-established drug that acts on metabolism and has long been used against type-2 diabetes," he said.

"We've known for a long time that modulating metabolism in mice can extend survival and postpone age-related conditions, and there are sound reasons why this should be the case is a small, short-lived animal.

"What we don't know however is whether similar effects on lifespan might be produced in humans.

"This is something that we cannot simply take for granted and the study's authors do well to sound a note of caution."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    First issue is that this is a very inexpensive drug that decreases morbidity, and only extends life by 5%. That is hardly immortality, and if people remain healthier as they age, then those posters that weigh the value of life in money should be delighted that the aging people would likely remain healthier and be less of a financial burden on society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    It's sad that when a subject like longer life comes up, so many of the comments are based on the financial implications. It makes you realise just how monetised our lives have become.

    Anyone who has anything approaching a decent quality of life will want to live longer, it's a natural instinct. But one day we will arrive at a lifespan where very difficult decisions will need to be considered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Not when cats are about........................................................................LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    This is really about extending the life of humans. Why do we want to do that, when already we have an increasingly ageing population? If we had fewer old people we would (a) reduce NHS costs, (b) reduce pressure on local authority care budgets, (c) reduce the total cost of state pensions and (c) ease the pressures on housing. All taxpayers would benefit! I'm 70 but this makes sense to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    But billionaires ect. want control forever muhahahaha...

    The dark side of science. Who gets to afford the elixer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Is the BBC now copying the tabloids with the weekly dodgy reporting of this the new elixir of life?

    Just for balance the the NIOA concluded last year that calorie restriction did not effect ageing. Look it up. Also they discovered in the highlighted research that high doses of metaformin shortened the life of the mice.
    You pays your money. What they need is a drug that makes people sceptical

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    We already have an ageing population and no way to support it. We don't need technology to live even longer. We are supposed to die. That is the way of things. Immortality is so incredibly selfish - all that wealth, homes, fuel, food, wasted on people who should have died decades ago?

    When nature doesn't take people, it will have to be decided another way ... and that will favour the rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    What was wrong with @26, second lowest rated? Nothing! Do people just Have to vote downwards out of spite? If one can't identify with a comment, just leave it alone. Time we got rid of the down button so people can only like or not like rather than deride and skew, so we can get a true measure of the popularity of a comment, not the measure of how much bitterness abounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    There are thousands who HAVE to take metformin as part of their daily treatment now, should not be difficult to measure the effect.
    It's a commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetics now, it's also produced by a large number of companys, it's been around for ages, it's not new. There's no logical reason to suppose it wont continue to be a NHS prescription drug.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    It is an interesting article but then people who are lifelong diabetics tend to look younger as in males it reduces testosterone which makes a 50 year old diabetic man look 10 to 15% younger unfortunately in that type of case with unpleasant side effects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    We all want to live longer but there will be a price to pay.

    Stop dreaming start saving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    So can we expect a plague of elderly male mice?

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    What is the obsession with increasing our life expectancy?

    Our economies cannot sustain populations ageing as extensively as they are already, and I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want to be relying on someone else to help me go to the toilet, clean me and feed me just so that I can reach my 120th birthday!

    Accept that death is inevitable and enjoy the life you live!

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    I bet future tests will prove it causes cancer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    If the pill works with humans, I bet it will not be available through the NHS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    As proved by 56.Artemesia (comment on wrong topic) the right to life is a human right but not necessarily intelligent life.

    Just because mice live longer with these pills, it does not mean it will be effective on humans.

    Will the first Guinea pigs please step forward... sorry - HUMANS.

    Until proven successful I will just keep applying the ointment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    is this a cunning ploy by Teresa May?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I wonder if

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Wish I was a mouse with diabetes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Everyone already has the 'right to die' (by their own hand)

    If a person is totally paralysed such that they cannot even lift a finger to help themselves then....?

    (Their life can only be ended at the hand of another)

    At present the Law does not recognise this situation

    However much we may wish for those suffering to be able to 'have it ended', it cannot be without new Legislation


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