Metformin is a drug commonly used to treat non-insulin-dependent diabetes. It targets cell metabolism to lower blood glucose levels. That same drug is now showing promise for treating pulmonary fibrosis.
Pulmonary fibrosis causes scar tissue to grow inside the lungs. This causes low oxygen levels and causes difficulty breathing.
The disease can be caused by environmental factors such as pollution, an infection or certain medications. Most cases of pulmonary fibrosis are idiopathic, meaning doctors cannot determine the cause.
Although therapies can help patients breathe easier and manage their symptoms, there is currently no cure for pulmonary fibrosis.
Metformin Showing Promise
Metformin is thought to treat pulmonary fibrosis by inhibiting the formation of certain components that lead to the development of pulmonary fibrosis. For example, one protein called NOX4 is generally higher in the lungs of patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Research showed that reducing these levels with metformin would lessen the inflammatory response that leads to symptoms.
Metformin is already proven to be safe and effective by the Federal Drug Administration, speeding up the process to get it to pulmonary fibrosis patients who could benefit from it. Future clinical trials will be simplified and have a decreased risk for unexpected adverse reactions.
In July 2018, researchers made a new discovery in the use of metformin for pulmonary fibrosis. A study at the University of Alabama showed that established pulmonary fibrosis could be reversed with metformin treatment. Using lung cells from mice, their study supports the concept that the drug could be a useful therapeutic strategy for those living with pulmonary fibrosis.
While there are currently no studies supporting clinically relevant outcomes in humans with pulmonary fibrosis, this is still an important step. Effective treatment options are lacking for people living with pulmonary fibrosis. More research is needed, but metformin is showing promise for the future of pulmonary fibrosis treatment.