Repurposing Metformin for Vascular Disease

Curr Med Chem. 2022 Jul 29. doi: 10.2174/0929867329666220729154615. Online ahead of print.


Metformin has seen use as an oral anti-hyperglycaemic drug since the late 1950s; however, following the release in 1998 of the findings of the 20-year United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) metformin use rapidly increased and today is the first-choice anti-hyperglycaemic drug for patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). Metformin is in daily use by an estimated 150 million people worldwide. Historically, the benefits of metformin as an anti-diabetic and cardiovascular-protective drug have been linked to effects in the liver, where it acts to inhibit gluconeogenesis and lipogenesis, as well as reducing insulin resistance and enhancing peripheral glucose utilization. However, direct protective effects on the endothelium and effects in the gut prior to metformin absorption are now recognized as being important. In the gut, metformin modulates the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)- gut-brain axis as well as impacting the intestinal microbiota. As the apparent number of putative tissue and cellular targets for metformin has increased, so has interest in re-purposing metformin to treat other diseases that include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and COVID-19. Metformin is also being investigated as an anti-ageing drug. Of particular interest is whether metformin provides the same level of vascular protection in individuals other than those with T2D, including obese individuals with metabolic syndrome, or in the setting of vascular thromboinflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2. In this review we critically evaluate the literature to highlight clinical settings in which metformin might be therapeutically repurposed for the prevention and treatment of vascular disease.

Keywords: COVID-19; Metformin; SARS-CoV-2; endothelium; inflammation; obesity; type 2 diabetes; vascular disease.