A Garvan-led study will investigate the potential for a safe, commonly prescribed medication for dementia – one of the most devastating conditions affecting elderly individuals today.
Dementia is a debilitating collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain, and impacts thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. In Australia, dementia is the second leading cause of death and affects more than 400,000 individuals.
Professor Katherine Samaras, Head of the Clinical Obesity, Nutrition and Adipose Biology lab at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, is pioneering a new approach to treating the condition.
New potential for existing therapy
With a team of international collaborators, Professor Samaras will carry out a large-scale clinical trial to assess whether metformin, a common treatment for type 2 diabetes, can help prevent the rapid decline of dementia.The study has significant potential to help slow or stop cognitive decline and structural brain changes in people at risk of dementia.
Metformin has been used safely to treat type 2 diabetes for 60 years. Studies over the last decade have revealed evidence of metformin’s benefits in cancer, heart disease and weight management and recently, it was shown to slow decline in cognition in a small clinical trial.
With collaborators, Professor Samaras will conduct a large, randomised controlled trial of metformin in participants at risk of dementia and assess their cognitive function over three years. The research team comprises an international group of experts, including Australia’s leading dementia clinician researchers and experts from metabolism, cardiology, pharmacology and statistics.
The study will also measure biomarkers of cognitive symptoms, conduct brain imaging to evaluate changes to the brain structure, connectivity and blood flow, and will assess health-related quality of life, functional independence and mobility, and psychological health.
“We need better strategies to prevent cognitive decline and dementia, in order to optimise well-being and quality of life, and maintain independence, right into old age. I hope this important study will be life-changing to dementia patients not only in Australia, but worldwide.”
Better strategies for healthy ageing
The clinical trial, which is expected to begin in mid-2020, holds the potential to repurpose a cheap, safe medication for dementia prevention. Professor Samaras hopes that the trial will translate the promising results from initial studies to help prevent what is a huge burden to affected individuals and their families. “Most individuals don’t realise the central role that a healthy metabolism plays in healthy brain function, but more and more research has emerged in recent years that reveals just how closely connected these two systems of the human body are,” says Professor Samaras.
To register your interest for the clinical trial, please contact Belinda Platzer: firstname.lastname@example.org.