Metformin, a commonly used medication for the management of type 2 diabetes, has demonstrated the ability to extend the lifespan of C. elegans.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that metformin achieves this by increasing the production of ether lipids, important components of cell membranes. This suggests that enhancing ether lipid production in humans might promote healthy aging and reduce the impact of age-related diseases.
In experiments with C. Elegans, scientists identified that genes involved in ether lipid production are essential for the lifespan-extending effects of metformin and related drugs. Disabling these genes blocked the longevity benefits and prevented lifespan extension in conditions known to promote a longer life, like dietary restriction.
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Additionally, increasing ether lipid synthesis alone was enough to extend the lifespan of C. Elegans. This process activated a metabolic stress defense response through a factor called SKN-1, similar to the mammalian protein Nrf, ultimately promoting a longer life.
However, it’s important to note that these findings are based on experiments in C. Elegans, and further research in mammalian models, human cells, mice, epidemiological studies, and clinical trials is needed to determine if promoting ether lipid synthesis can extend human health-span and lifespan.