Updated on 25 November 2013
Scientists have wondered for more than 50 years whether metformin worked to lower blood glucose in patients by directly working on the glucose
Singapore: Researchers from St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with researchers at McMaster University in Canada, have reported to discover how the type 2 diabetes drug metformin actually works, providing a molecular understanding that could lead to the development of more effective therapies.
Mass spectrometry technologies from AB Sciex, a global leader in analytical technologies, played a critical role in the analysis that led to this breakthrough finding.
Doctors have known for decades that metformin helps treat type 2 diabetes. However, questions had lingered for more than 50 years whether this drug, which is available as a generic drug, worked to lower blood glucose in patients by directly working on the glucose. People with type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar levels. They have trouble converting sugar in their blood into energy because of low levels of insulin. Treating this condition, metformin is considered the most widely prescribed anti-diabetic drug in the world.
Until now, no one had been able to adequately explain how this drug lowers blood sugar. It turns out, according to the new study by Australian and Canadian researchers, that the drug works by reducing harmful fat in the liver. People who take metformin reportedly often have a fatty liver, which is frequently caused by obesity.
"Fat is likely a key trigger for pre-diabetes in humans," said Professor Bruce Kemp, head of protein chemistry and metabolism at St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research. "Our study indicates that metformin doesn't directly reduce sugar metabolism, as previously suspected, but instead reduces fat in the liver, which in turn allows insulin to work effectively."