Diabetes medicine can repair brain damage in mice and grow new cells – but it can only work in WOMEN because it is stimulated by a female sex hormone
- Metformin is a medicine that helps people with type 2 diabetes to control blood sugar levels
- Studies have shown that it stimulates the growth of new neurons in the brain and improves learning and memory skills
- Researchers induced strokes in mice and then gave them daily injections of metformin
- The drug activated neural stem cells in the brain, but only in adult female mice
- The female sex hormone estradiol increases the ability of stem cells to respond to metformin, while the male sex hormone testosterone impedes this ability
A diabetes medicine can possibly repair brain damage – but a shocking new study is only found in women.
In research on mice, scientists found that metformin, used to treat type 2 diabetes, activates brain stem cells that renew themselves and improve cognitive impairment.
Researchers discovered that this only worked in female mice because the sex hormone estradiol increased the ability of stem cells to respond to metformin.
However, the male sex hormone testosterone inhibited it.
The team, from the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, says this can be a breakthrough in the treatment of brain injury and damage from strokes, cerebral palsy – and perhaps even Alzheimer's disease.
A new study by the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, has shown that the female sex hormone estradiol enhances the effect that the drug metformin has on brain stem cells (file image)
The new research, published in the journal Science Advances, builds on a 2012 study that investigated the treatment for brain damage in children.
It was in that study that researchers discovered the drug metformin – which is widely used in the treatment of diabetes to control blood sugar levels – helped restore the brains of newborn mice who had a stroke.
Metformin activates stem cells in the brain, which stimulates the growth of new neurons and cells, especially those killed during a brain injury.
several studies have shown that brain injury – especially in childhood – can cause cognitive problems with memory or visual-spatial skills that will last for years.
& # 39; We wanted to know if metformin also promoted cognitive recovery, & # 39; said lead author Dr. Cindi Morshead, professor of surgery at the University of Toronto.
& # 39; You can repair a hole in someone's brain, but if they do not function better, it is irrelevant for them.
For the new study, the team induced strokes in newborn mice and then gave daily metformin injections.
Then the rodents were put in a puzzle box to test their learning ability and memory.
The results showed that metformin could activate neural stem cells in the brain – but only in adult female mice.
& # 39; When we first looked at the data, we did not see the benefit of metformin treatment & # 39 ;, said Dr. Morshead. & # 39; Then we noticed that adult women usually outperformed the men. & # 39;
The researchers did not understand why until they looked at hormones and realized that the female sex hormone estradiol – most commonly used to treat menopausal symptoms – enhanced the effect metformin had on stem cells.
On the other hand, the male sex hormone testosterone – which controls fertility and muscle mass – hampered the effect of metformin.
To test this, researchers removed the ovaries from female mice, which meant that they no longer produced estradiol.
Without this hormone, the stem cells did not respond to treatment with metformin.
& # 39; Knowing that there are both age and gender-dependent effects – it has such implications for treatment and therapeutics & # 39 ;, said Dr. Morshead.
Future research will focus on how quickly metformin should start following a brain injury and how long treatment will be needed before the effects are recognized.
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