Researchers at the University of Leuven, Belgium decoded the mechanism behind metformin's age-slowing effects: the drug causes an increase in the number of toxic oxygen molecules released in the cell and this, surprisingly, increases cell robustness and longevity in the long term.
"As long as the amount of harmful oxygen molecules released in the cell remains small, it has a positive longterm effect on the cell. Cells use the reactive oxygen particles to their advantage before they can do any damage," said doctoral researcher Wouter De Haes.
"Metformin causes a slight increase in the number of harmful oxygen molecules. We found that this makes cells stronger and extends their healthy lifespan," he added.
The researchers studied metformin's mechanism in the tiny roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, an ideal species for studying aging because it has a lifespan of only three weeks. PTI