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Mentored Undergraduate Research Awards


Metformin is a first-line drug used in the treatment of type II diabetes mellitus and is the 4th-most prescribed drug in the United States. It functions in lowering blood glucose levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. Despite its wide scale use, the degree to which it affects aspects of behavior and metabolism unrelated to diabetes is not fully understood.

Recent studies have attempted to fill this gap, particularly in the context of metformin’s impact on lifespan. We decided to extend this research by focusing on measurable behaviors as well as traits related to metabolism and physiology. Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism, we investigated metformin’s impacts on food consumption, body weight, starvation resistance, and sleep. We observed preliminary evidence of increased feeding in Drosophila when given a metformin-supplemented diet. The same diet had an effect on body weight while making the flies less vulnerable to starvation stress. Metformin did not appear to have a significant impact on sleep patterns, except at low concentrations. These data show that metformin does cause multiple levels of side effects in the whole organism level.

Given that the molecular pathways of metformin action are conserved between Drosophila and humans, similar effects on food consumption and weight may be found in human subjects treated with metformin. Future study should include an analysis of the molecular, genetic, and neuronal mechanisms of the above physiological and metabolic changes.