Two drugs already on the market to treat type two diabetes are being tested in nonhuman primates to see if they can impact the aging process. Researchers dosed marmosets with Metformin and Acarbose and found no adverse side effects. The pilot study results were recently published in the journal Pathobiology of Aging and Age-related Diseases. Partners in the study include the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) on the Texas Biomedical Research Institute campus, UT Health San Antonio, South Texas Veterans’ Health Care System, and Texas A&M-San Antonio.
“The medication was safe and did what we expected it to do in the animals,” said Texas Biomed Associate Professor Corinna Ross, Ph.D., who is also the marmoset colony administrator at the SNPRC. “The marmosets did very well with the therapy and it holds a lot of promise for the future.”
Metformin increases insulin sensitivity. Acarbose alters how carbohydrates are digested. The theory behind these medications’ possible age-related benefits is that their activity mimics calorie restriction, an intervention shown to increase longevity and health span in mice. Now, marmosets – which are small New World monkeys – are being used as the test model since their physiology, reproductive system, and aging patterns are similar to humans.
In this recent study, marmosets were given Metformin and Acarbose orally in a yogurt mixture. The animals were monitored for side effects. None were observed. Now the scientists are working to get federal funding for a long-term research project focusing on the effectiveness of the medications.
“We’re finding more and more that a lot of FDA-approved drugs that were developed for one specific purpose really have several other things they are capable of doing,” Dr. Ross explained. “We’ve already done the development. We’ve already done the testing. We know they’re safe in people. They can, perhaps, solve a lot more problems.”
Earlier research has shown Metformin is associated with cognitive improvements and Acarbose is associated with cardiovascular benefits including protection against atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction. These improvements were shown in diabetic patients. Now, scientists are trying to find out if healthy people could benefit from these medications.
This research was supported by a pilot grant provided by the San Antonio Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center (P30 AG044271). Staff and resources were partially supported by San Antonio Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Biology of Aging (P30 AG013319), R01 AG050797, R01 AG057431, the Southwest National Primate Research Center P51OD011133 and the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.