SPUR 2019: Amplifying muscle and metabolic recovery in aging using metformin and leucine


Over the next 15 years, there is going to be large number of older people who end up in the hospital. After, many will return home and be less physically active for long periods of time because of slow muscle recovery. The resulting inactive lifestyle decreases muscle size and increases weakness and increases insulin resistance thereby placing older adults at risk for falls, fractures, hospitalizations and development of diabetes. The goal of this project is to re-purpose a common diabetic drug, metformin, and combine it with the essential amino acid, leucine, to improve muscle recovery after the immobilization event. This information will be very important to develop new treatments to prevent muscle atrophy and metabolic decline in older adults. A unique process that may slow muscle regrowth and delay ample restoration of metabolism during recovery from physical inactivity is increased amounts of muscle inflammation, the build-up of harmful lipid products in muscle, called ceramides, and the reduced health of mitochondria. These events may cause muscle and metabolism to not function properly. Metformin is a very common drug given to those with diabetes. However, evidence in the literature support that metformin when combined with leucine may be able to restore muscle health during recovery from an immobilization event. Therefore, the goal of this project is to test in old mice if metformin in combination with leucine is able to enhance muscle recovery after immobilization.

Student Role

The student will:

  1. hands on experience with animal experiments
  2. help conduct sample and statistical analysis
  3. participate in weekly lab meetings (relevant journal article presentations)
  4. opportunities to shadow Dr. Drummond with physical inactivity (bed rest) clinical studies in older adults

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

The student will learn:

  1. new knowledge in the mechanisms of muscle atrophy and metabolic dysfunction with physical inactivity in aging
  2. new knowledge of therapies that may be used to restore muscle and metabolism after a muscle disuse event in older adults
  3. new molecular biology laboratory techniques and mouse models of physical inactivity
  4. opportunity to present a research article and be constructively evaluated by mentor and lab personnel
  5. opportunity to shadow Dr. Drummond during his clinical studies in older adults
  6. co-author on publication
  7. interact with graduate students and fellows not only in Dr. Drummond's lab but also in surrounding metabolism investigator laboratories

Micah Drummond
Associate Professor

Physical Therapy & Athletic Training
College of Health

I thoroughly enjoy mentoring students and seeing them learn new knowledge and skill sets, and succeed with their experiments while also be rewarded with various acknowledgments such as presenting an abstract as a lead author on a research study and gaining co-author publications for their respective contributions to the larger study. I also like to see first hand the student feel right at home engaging in a highly interactive and friendly group of lab personnel. My priority is to see the student succeed. To facilitate this goal, I regularly meet with the student either informally (daily) by visiting the lab and viewing the student involvement and interaction with other lab personnel, and by regular scheduled meetings with me once every other week or as needed. The biweekly student meeting provides an opportunity for the student to let me know how things are going, developing short-term goals, their progress, discussing data. and helping the student put together a research presentation poster.