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Metformin Protects Mice from Alcohol Liver Damage

Drug prevents alcohol's ability to cause hepatic lipid accumulation in study

THURSDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Metformin dramatically reduces alcohol-induced liver damage in mice after both acute and chronic exposure, according to a report in the June issue of Gastroenterology.

Ina Bergheim, Ph.D., of the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center in Louisville, Ky., and colleagues investigated whether metformin prevents steatosis and alcohol-related liver damage in mice.

Metformin treatment led to a 60 percent reduction in the effect of acute alcohol intake, which is typically a 20-fold increase in hepatic lipids that peaks 12 hours after ingestion. The drug also blocked the alcohol-induced upregulation of plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI)-1. Metformin prevented hepatic lipid accumulation after chronic alcohol exposure, as did knocking out PAI-1.

"Taken together, these findings suggest a novel mechanism of action for metformin and identify a new role of PAI-1 in hepatic injury caused by ethanol," the authors write.

In an editorial, Jan B. Hoek, Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, writes that the study is "something of a bombshell. These authors report that in an animal model of acute ethanol injury, metformin does indeed resolve alcohol-induced fatty liver and protects against alcohol-induced liver damage, but it does so without evidence of inhibition of AMP-activated protein kinase activation or changes in the phosphorylation state of acetyl CoA carboxylase."

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