Researchers at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy have shown in a preliminary study in rats that one of the most common diabetes drugs, metformin, also has a protective effect on the heart.
The study, carried out in collaboration with a research group from Naples and published in the journal Diabetes, reveals that metformin helps increase pumping capacity, improve energy balance, reduce the accumulation of fat, and limit the loss of heart cells through programmed cell death.
The results were compared with animals treated with another diabetes drug, which proved to have no positive effects on the heart.
“The animals in our study were treated with metformin for a whole year, so the effect seems to persist,” says Jörgen Isgaard, the researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy who led the Swedish research group involved in the study.
Diabetes drugs have proved to have a number of serious side-effects for people with heart disease. Rosiglitazone, for example, was recently withdrawn due to its cardiac side-effects. Metformin too can occasionally have side-effects, primarily in patients with kidney failure.
“Our results nevertheless strengthen the indication for metformin as a diabetes medicine, and we hope that they are now followed up with studies on actual patients,” says Isgaard.
The article Metformin Prevents the Development of Chronic Heart Failure in the SHHF Rat Model was published in Diabetes on 22 February.