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Chibuike Okafor: The Metformin Mystery From Malaria to Diabetes and Now to Cancer
Jun 24, 2024, 01:15

Chibuike Okafor: The Metformin Mystery From Malaria to Diabetes and Now to Cancer

Chibuike Okafor, Research Assistant at Department of Pharmaceutical/Medicinal Chemistry University of Jos, shared on LinkedIn:

Metformin’s story is a fascinating journey through time, starting in the Middle Ages with the herb Galega officinalis, used in folk medicine to treat diabetes-like symptoms. This plant gave birth to galegine, a compound that could lower blood sugar but was too toxic for regular use. Fast forward to the 1920s, when French scientist Jean Sterne synthesized metformin, which quietly waited for its moment to shine.

In the late 1950s, metformin made a dramatic comeback. Named ‘Glucophage,’ meaning ‘glucose eater,’ it was found to effectively manage blood sugar levels without the severe side effects of earlier treatments. Its secret? It reduces liver glucose production, increases muscle glucose uptake, and boosts insulin sensitivity, all without causing dangerous drops in blood sugar.

But the story doesn’t end there. In the 2000s, researchers noticed something incredible: diabetic patients taking metformin had lower cancer rates. This surprising discovery sparked a wave of studies into metformin’s anti-cancer properties. It turns out that metformin activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which helps inhibit cell growth pathways that cancer cells rely on. It also lowers insulin levels, which can fuel tumor growth, and disrupts the energy production of cancer cells, making it harder for them to survive.

Today, clinical trials are exploring metformin’s potential in treating various cancers, including breast, colorectal, and prostate. Early results are promising, suggesting metformin might enhance traditional cancer treatments, improve survival rates, and even help prevent cancer in high-risk individuals.

Metformin’s journey from an ancient remedy to a modern wonder drug is a testament to scientific curiosity and perseverance. Its transformation from treating malaria-like symptoms to becoming a cornerstone of diabetes care and a potential cancer-fighter is nothing short of extraordinary. This little pill’s legacy is still unfolding, with each discovery bringing us closer to a future where metformin could help us tackle one of the toughest challenges in medicine: cancer.”

 Chibuike Okafor

Source: Chibuike Okafor/LinkedIn