Diabetes drug metformin heals brain damage - women only

Diabetes drug metformin heals brain damage - women only

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Metformin used to treat brain injuries?

A diabetes medication appears to be able to repair brain damage, but only in women. This could revolutionize the treatment of strokes and brain injuries.

A recent study by the University of Toronto found that an anti-diabetes medication in female mice can repair existing brain damage. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Science Advances".

Why could the effect only be observed in female animals?

When investigated in mice, the researchers found that metformin, which is normally used to treat type 2 diabetes, activates stem cells in the brain that renew themselves and alleviate cognitive impairment. However, this only worked in female mice, since the sex hormone estradiol increases the ability of the stem cells to respond to metformin. However, the male sex hormone testosterone inhibited this ability. The finding could be a cornerstone in the treatment of brain injuries and damage from stroke, cerebral palsy, and maybe even Alzheimer's, reports the research group

Metformin activates stem cells in the brain

Several studies had already shown that childhood brain injuries in particular can cause cognitive problems with memory or visual-spatial abilities that last for years. The researchers therefore investigated whether metformin can promote cognitive recovery. The current study builds on a study conducted in 2012 that looked at the treatment of brain damage in children. In this study, the researchers found that the drug metformin repaired the brain of newborn mice that had had a stroke. Metformin activates stem cells in the brain, which promotes the growth of new neurons and cells, especially those that were killed during a brain injury, the team explains.

More research is needed

For the new study, the team induced strokes in newborn mice and then administered metformin to them daily. The rodents were then subjected to tests to test their learning and memory. The results showed that the metformin was able to activate neuronal stem cells in the brain, but only in adult female mice. Future studies should focus on how quickly treatment with metformin should start after a brain injury and how long treatment should take to have an effect, the researchers explain. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Rebecca M. Ruddy, Kelsey V. Adams, Cindi M. Morshead: Age- and sex-dependent effects of metformin on neural precursor cells and cognitive recovery in a model of neonatal stroke, in Science Advances (query: 12.09.2019), Science Advances

Video: Is The Fountain of Youth Found in Your Stem Cells? Dr. Johnny Huard. TEDxVail (August 2022).