Press Release

Diabetes: A duo helps better

Neuherberg, Germany, 04 August 2014. Metformin* and SGLT2 inhibitors** together reduce the blood sugar levels considerably more effectively than either drug alone. Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research, report in the journal 'Diabetes’ that this is due to a synergetic mechanism.

Susanne Neschen, Martin Hrabě de Angelis, Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

Susanne Neschen, Martin Hrabě de Angelis | Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

Various active substances in oral antidiabetic agents are frequently combined in the treatment of diabetes in order to achieve an effective reduction in the blood sugar. A new, very promising approach combines the substances metformin and SGLT2 inhibitors, the latter were just approved in 2012. Scientists headed by Dr. Susanne Neschen and Prof. Dr. Martin Hrabě de Angelis from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, in cooperation with Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and drug manufacturer Sanofi Aventis, have discovered how the two substances reinforce each other.


Medicinal chain reaction


SGLT2 inhibitors promote the elimination of sugar in the urine and consequently reduce the blood sugar. However, paradoxically the body reacts to this with increased sugar production in the liver. And this is where metformin comes in: it slows down the body's own sugar production. The interaction of the two substances causes a drop in blood sugar levels that is effective and prolonged, and the reduction is greater than with either substance administered on its own.

"Combination effective with minimal side effects”

"The combination of drugs effectively reduces the blood sugar, and particularly also the blood sugar peaks after meals. In diabetic mice, the double therapy produced an improvement in the long-term blood sugar level HbA1c within only two weeks," reports first author Neschen. "The duo consequently constitutes an effective treatment strategy for type 2 diabetes while also producing minimal side effects," adds Hrabě de Angelis.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects around 6 million people in Germany, and that number is steadily increasing. The Helmholtz Zentrum München focuses on developing new approaches for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of major widespread diseases.

Further Information

*Metformin: is the most frequently used oral antidiabetic agent and belongs to the biguanide class. Metformin increases the cells' sensitivity to insulin, particularly in the liver and muscles, so that more sugar is absorbed from the blood. It furthermore inhibits the production of sugar in the liver.

**SGLT2 Inhibitors: the substances block Sodium-Glucose-Transporter 2 and consequently inhibit the re-absorption of sugar filtered in the kidneys. This results in an increase in the excretion of sugar in the urine.


Original publication:
Neschen, S. et al (2014). Metformin supports the antidiabetic effect of a sodium glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor by suppressing endogenous glucose production in diabetic mice, Diabetes, doi: 10.2337/db14-0393

Link to publication

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,100 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members.

The German Center for Diabetes Research e.V. brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and combines basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. The members of the association are the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DifE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, the Helmholtz Zentrum München – the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institutes of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden and the Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Research Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. The aim of the DZD is to find answers to unsolved questions in diabetes research by adopting a novel, integrative approach and to make a significant contribution towards improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus.

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Scientific contact
Dr. Susanne Neschen, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute of Experimental Genetics, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg - Tel.: 089-3187-4081 -