Diabetes drug promotes brain regeneration in multiple ways

January 6, 2016

Like many other adult tissues, the brain has the ability to repair itself, but this ability is not strong enough to overcome the massive cell death that occurs in diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Several years ago, Dr. Jing Wang discovered that metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, can also enhance the adult brain’s ability to produce new neurons, thus serving as a potential regenerative agent for brain repair.

Now, Dr. Wang and her team have made important new progress in deciphering how this happens. They found that metformin promotes brain regeneration through two distinct molecular pathways. One pathway causes brain stem cells to produce more brain stem cells and is controlled through a protein called TAp73. The other causes brain stem cells to give rise to mature neurons and is controlled through the activation of the epigenetic AMPK-aPKC-CBP pathway.

Metformin is currently being tested in clinical trials for brain regeneration. This new research, published in Stem Cell Reports, could help further refine this experimental therapy.

Authors: Michael Fatt, Karolynn Hsu, Ling He, Fredric Wondisford, Freda D. Miller, David R. Kaplan, Jing Wang

Funders: J.P. Bickell Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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