Metformin: An old drug with new applications

Joseph Zhou, Scott Massey, Darren Story, Lixin Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


Metformin is a biguanide drug that has been used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus for more than 60 years. The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetic Study (UKPDS) has shown metformin to improve mortality rates in diabetes patients, and recent studies suggest metformin has additional effects in treating cancer, obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and metabolic syndrome. Metformin has also been shown to alleviate weight gain associated with antipsychotic medication. Metformin has recently been extensively studied and emerging evidence suggests metformin decreases hepatocyte triglyceride accumulation in NAFLD and prevents liver tumorigenesis. Interestingly, studies have also shown metformin reduces visceral fat, suppresses white-adipose-tissue (WAT) extracellular matrix remodeling, and inhibits obesity-induced inflammation. However, clinical evidence for using metformin to treat NAFLD, cancer, metabolic syndrome, or to prevent hepatocellular carcinoma in NAFLD patients is lacking. This review therefore addresses the potential beneficial effects of metformin on NAFLD, its role in protecting against cardiac ischemia–reperfusion (I/R) injury, atherosclerosis, glucotoxicity, and lipotoxicity induced oxidative and ER stress in pancreatic β-cell dysfunction, as well as its underlying molecular mechanisms of action.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2863
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • ER stress
  • Inflammation
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Metformin


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