Research carried out at the University of Dundee has shown that the diabetes medicine metformin may prove beneficial to patients with heart failure.
Metformin is the world's most commonly prescribed diabetes medicine, and researchers from Dundee had previously established that metformin affords type 2 diabetes patients protection against both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
This latest study, led by Chim Lang, Professor of Cardiology at the University, was the first clinical trial examining the impact of metformin on non-diabetic heart failure patients. Heart failure occurs when the contractility of cardiac muscle is reduced. The disease is manifested in fatigue and shortness of breath, and can lead to death or a severely diminished quality of life.
Professor Lang has previously shown that patients with heart failure are at risk of diabetes and have insulin resistance, a condition in which the natural hormone becomes less effective in lowering blood sugar. It is this insulin resistance that is associated with lethargy and poor exercise effort, symptoms that limit the daily activities of heart failure sufferers.
Professor Lang's team showed that metformin can help patients with heart failure identified to have insulin resistance to do more exercise. Metformin also resulted in weight loss and improvement in the performance of patients' fat hormones.
"This is the first clinical trial that looked specifically at potential beneficial effects of metformin in pre-diabetic heart failure patients, and the results are very promising," Professor Lang said.
"These results are hypothesis generating. We believe that our findings may have the potential of developing into a new treatment strategy for patients with heart failure. We are grateful to all the patients who took part in this study, and we would like to thank British Heart Foundation for funding it."
The study is published in the current issue of the European Journal of Heart Failure.
Metformin is widely used across the globe, and is prioritised over every other treatment option for type 2 diabetes sufferers.
Professors Andrew Morris and Dario Alessi from Dundee were the first scientists to establish that metformin treatment affords type 2 diabetes patients protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease. In recent years, it has been shown that metformin displays promise as a treatment for many other conditions.
Last month, a Dundee team, led by Dr Graham Rena, announced an important discovery about how the drug actually works, opening up the possibility of developing more effective 'second generation' medicine in the future.
Notes to editors:
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the nation's heart charity, dedicated to saving lives through pioneering research, patient care, campaigning for change and by providing vital information.