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Study: Metformin Could Help People With Common Inherited Form of Autism

By KM Diaz, | May 16, 2017

Metformin could be repurposed as a medication for Fragile X syndrome within the next few years if clinical trials are successful. (YouTube)

Metformin could be repurposed as a medication for Fragile X syndrome within the next few years if clinical trials are successful. (YouTube)

Metformin has been widely used as a medication for diabetes. Now, researchers have found that it could also help people with a common inherited form of autism.

In a study, researchers have tested the effectiveness of the drug in mice. The result shows that metformin was able to enhance their sociability and symptomatic behaviors due to Fragile X syndrome.

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Fragile X syndrome is an inherited condition that causes errors in the gene FMR1 which leads to excess production of protein in the brain. The condition destroys the brain cell connections and results in behavioral changes.

Fragile X syndrome affects 1 in 6,000 girls and 1 in 4,000 boys. Children affected with the condition experience developmental delays such as language and speech impairment. They also suffer seizures, anxiety, and problems in social interactions, especially with other children.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and McGill University in Canada observed the impact of metformin in mice without the FMR1 gene. These mice have pre-existing Fragile X syndrome and do not socialize with other mice.

The mice received metformin treatment for ten days, in which researchers have noticed that their brain connections were rewired, the protein pattern becomes normal, and they exhibited normal behavior. Furthermore, the medication decreased the occurrence of seizures, which reportedly affects about 10 to 20 percent people with Fragile X.

Metformin has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as a medication for type-2 diabetes.

According to Dr. Christos Gkogkas from the University of Edinburgh's Patrick Wild Centre, metformin has been widely used as a drug for type-2 diabetes for more than 30 years, proving its tolerability and safety. Researchers believe that metformin could be repurposed as a medication for Fragile X syndrome within the next few years if human clinical trials are successful.

This study was published in the Nature Medicine journal.

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