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Metformin improves circulating endothelial cells and endothelial progenitor cells in type 1 diabetes: MERIT study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fahad Ahmed, Rachel Rider, Dr Michael Glanville, Dr Salman Razvi, Dr Jolanta Weaver



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: Type 1 diabetes is associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD). Decreased endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) number plays a pivotal role in reduced endothelial repair and development of CVD. We aimed to determine if cardioprotective effect of metformin is mediated by increasing circulating endothelial progenitor cells (cEPCs), pro-angiogenic cells (PACs) and decreasing circulating endothelial cells (cECs) count whilst maintaining unchanged glycemic control.Methods: This study was an open label and parallel standard treatment study. Twenty-three type 1 diabetes patients without overt CVD were treated with metformin for 8 weeks (treatment group-TG). They were matched with nine type 1 diabetes patients on standard treatment (SG) and 23 age-and sex-matched healthy volunteers (HC). Insulin dose was adjusted to keep unchanged glycaemic control. cEPCs and cECs counts were determined by flow cytometry using surface markers CD45(dim)CD34(+)VEGFR-2(+) and CD45(dim)CD133(-)CD34(+)CD144(+) respectively. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were cultured to assess changes in PACs number, function and colony forming units (CFU-Hill's colonies).Results: At baseline TG had lower cEPCs, PACs, CFU-Hills' colonies and PACs adhesion versus HC (p < 0.001-all variables) and higher cECs versus HC (p = 0.03). Metformin improved cEPCs, PACs, CFU-Hill's colonies number, cECs and PACs adhesion (p < 0.05-all variables) to levels seen in HC whilst HbA1c (one-way ANOVA p = 0.78) and glucose variability (average glucose, blood glucose standard deviation, mean amplitude of glycaemic excursion, continuous overall net glycaemic action and area under curve) remained unchanged. No changes were seen in any variables in SG. There was an inverse correlation between CFU-Hill's colonies with cECs.Conclusions: Metformin has potential cardio-protective effect through improving cEPCs, CFU-Hill's colonies, cECs, PACs count and function independently of hypoglycaemic effect. This finding needs to be confirmed by long term cardiovascular outcome studies in type 1 diabetes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ahmed FW, Rider R, Glanville M, Narayanan K, Razvi S, Weaver JU

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cardiovascular Diabetology

Year: 2016

Volume: 15

Online publication date: 26/08/2016

Acceptance date: 20/06/2016

Date deposited: 11/11/2016

ISSN (print): 1475-2840

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s12933-016-0413-6


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