Thousands of South Texans take metformin daily to treat their type 2 diabetes, and thousands more take it because they are at risk for the disease. Because of the way metformin works, researchers with the UT Health Science Center’s Barshop Institute for Aging and Longevity Studies want to learn whether the medication might offer other health benefits in older adults and merit broader use.
The Barshop Institute researchers are conducting a clinical research study over the next two years to learn whether metformin will help people age better and avoid frailty. Sara Espinoza, M.D., a physician with UT Medicine San Antonio and associate professor in the Health Science Center School of Medicine, is the study leader. Dr. Espinoza is an expert on frailty, which is marked by poor grip strength, slow walking speed, diminished physical activity and self-reported exhaustion in older adults.
“Metformin is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and it improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar,” Dr. Espinoza said. “We suspect that, through those mechanisms, metformin will improve frailty, because inflammation and poor insulin sensitivity are also important mechanisms for frailty development.”
San Antonio-area residents 65 and older are invited to inquire about study eligibility. The study is enrolling people who are not diabetic but have prediabetes—they are at risk for developing diabetes. Participants must otherwise be fairly healthy.
Study follow-up is two years. At enrollment, volunteers will be randomly assigned to receive either metformin treatment or an inactive placebo. Participants will not know their assignment. They will give a full health history to the physician and have a physical exam every six months for two years. Metformin or the placebo will be provided at no cost to participants.
Patients will be seen at the Frederic Bartter Research Unit at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Audie Murphy Division. Volunteers need not be veterans, however. Thirty patients will be assigned to each group.
Prospective study volunteers may call 210-617-5190.
The study is made possible by the Barshop Institute; the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center; the Institute for Integration of Science and Medicine; and the San Antonio Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the South Texas VA.
UT Medicine San Antonio is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine. Dr. Espinoza holds a faculty appointment in the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Medicine.