DZNE Logo Metformin, a medication prescribed for patients suffering from type 2-diabetes seems to be more beneficial in the health terrain, than previously thought. Experts from the German Center for Neuro – degenerative Diseases (DZNE), the University of Dundee and the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics suggest that the diabetes drug metformin has potential to fight Alzheimer’s disease. Alterations of the cell structure protein Tau in mice nerve cells are considered as the main cause of Alzheimer’s. It is these modifications that metformin possibly counteracts, hence aids to tackle this serious condition.

When neurons in the brain die, cognitive impairment is supposedly triggered. At the molecular level, the disease may be characterized by the formation of Tau protein deposits in nerve cells. As Tau is tipped too strongly with phosphate groups, phosphorylation apparently leads to the exclusion of Tau from the cytoskeleton and aggregation. In order to overcome this complication, scientists focused on controlling the protein PP2A, which is responsible for removing phosphate groups from Tau protein. Among patients with Alzheimer’s, PP2A is presumably not active enough and results in an elevated phosphorylation and deposition of Tau.

Cell culture experiments conducted on mouse nerve cells conclude that metformin may directly safeguard PP2A against degradation by avoiding the binding to special degradation proteins. Sybille Krauß from DZNE and colleagues mention that increase in activity declines Tau phosphorylation. Healthy mice were made to drink water which included metformin, so Tau-phoshorylation in brain cells was allegedly reduced. Further investigations will be initiated for inspecting the way metformin restricts deposition of tau proteins in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease and enhances cognitive performance.

The research was published in the scientific journal PNAS on November 22nd.