Facilitated By

San Antonio Medical Foundation


UT Health San Antonio

The UT Health San Antonio, with missions of teaching, research and healing, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities.

Principal Investigator(s)
Espinoza, Sara E
Funded by
Research Start Date

Frailty is a geriatric syndrome which leads to poor health outcomes in older adults, such as falls, disability,hospitalization, institutionalization, and death. Due to the dramatic growth in the U.S. aging population and thehealth care costs associated with frailty (estimated at more than $18 billion per year), frailty is a major healthcare problem. There has been little research into potential pharmacologic interventions that would delay orreduce the incidence of frailty. Thus, the major goal of this study is to test metformin as a novel intervention forthe prevention of frailty. We propose that diabetes/insulin resistance and inflammation are major contributors tofrailty, and that the use of metformin to modulate diabetes/insulin resistance and inflammation will preventand/or ameliorate the progression of frailty.The rationale for testing metformin for frailty prevention is based on the following: 1) Insulin resistance has been linked to the pathogenesis of frailty and our own research shows that diabetes is a significant predictor of frailty onset or worsening in community-dwelling older adults; 2) Several studies have shown that frail older subjects (compared with non-frail) are under a state of chronic low grade ?sterile? inflammation, as evidenced by increase plasma concentration of inflammatorymarkers; 3) In addition to frailty, inflammation also plays a key role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance; 4) Metformin has both insulin sensitizing and anti-inflammatory properties, and; 5) Our analyzed clinical administrative data from 2,415 adult veterans with diabetes shows that those who were taking metformin as monotherapy were at 34% reduced risk of becoming frail compared to patients taking sulfonylureas.We hypothesize that metformin will lead to reduced inflammation and insulin resistance present inolder glucose-intolerant subjects and that these changes will consequently prevent the onset and/orprogression of frailty in this sub-population of older adults.We propose to study glucose intolerant subjects, a population which encompasses approximately one-third ofolder adults, and is most likely to benefit from metformin. To our knowledge, this research will be the first tostudy a potential intervention targeted toward a central mechanism involved in the etiology of frailty. We willalso assess potential molecular mechanisms (insulin signaling, AMPK signaling, etc.) as potential cellulardefects in frailty that are alleviated by metformin. Because of the enormous costs associated with frailty (bothpersonal and economic), a treatment that prevents or delays frailty, even in a sub-population of older adults,would have a major positive impact in our society.

Collaborative Project
Basic Research
Diabetes and Obesity