Metformin treatment of diverse Caenorhabditis species reveals the importance of genetic background in longevity and healthspan extension outcomes

Brian Onken, Christine A. Sedore, Anna L. Coleman-Hulbert, David Hall, Erik Johnson, Eleanor Grace Jones, Stephen A. Banse, Phu Huynh, Suzhen Guo, Jian Xue, Esteban Chen, Girish Harinath, Anna C Foulger, Elizabeth A. Chao, June Hope, Dipa Bhaumik, Todd Plummer, Delaney Inman, Mackenzie Morshead, Max GuoGordon J Lithgow, Patrick C. Phillips, Monica Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Metformin, the most commonly prescribed anti-diabetes medication, has multiple reported health benefits, including lowering the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer, improving cognitive function with age, extending survival in diabetic patients, and, in several animal models, promoting youthful physiology and lifespan. Due to its longevity and health effects, metformin is now the focus of the first proposed clinical trial of an anti-aging drug—the Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME) program. Genetic variation will likely influence outcomes when studying metformin health effects in human populations. To test for metformin impact in diverse genetic backgrounds, we measured lifespan and healthspan effects of metformin treatment in three Caenorhabditis species representing genetic variability greater than that between mice and humans. We show that metformin increases median survival in three C. elegans strains, but not in C. briggsae and C. tropicalis strains. In C. briggsae, metformin either has no impact on survival or decreases lifespan. In C. tropicalis, metformin decreases median survival in a dose-dependent manner. We show that metformin prolongs the period of youthful vigor in all C. elegans strains and in two C. briggsae strains, but that metformin has a negative impact on the locomotion of C. tropicalis strains. Our data demonstrate that metformin can be a robust promoter of healthy aging across different genetic backgrounds, but that genetic variation can determine whether metformin has positive, neutral, or negative lifespan/healthspan impact. These results underscore the importance of tailoring treatment to individuals when testing for metformin health benefits in diverse human populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13488
JournalAging cell
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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