Pill linked to long life in mice

Lab mice Mouse studies gave "promising" results

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • 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?


Comments 5 of 75


More Health stories


Features & Analysis

BBC Future

(Getty Images)

What it’s really like to die

The seven experiences you face at the end


  • Kinetic sculpture violinClick Watch

    The "kinetic sculpture" that can replicate digital files and play them on a violin

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.