The effects of metformin on the vascular system

  • Helen E. Archer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Macrovascular contraction and relaxation effects of metformin were measured using a Mulvany Halpern myograph. Mouse aortic ring sections were treated for 1 and 4 hours in vitro with metformin at 10-5M, and for 2, 4 and 8 weeks in vivo with metformin at 250mg/kg/day. The rings were contacted with increasing concentrations of noradrenaline (10-9M, 10-8M, 10-7M, 10-6M) in the absence and presence of metformin. Maximally contracted tissue was then relaxed using increasing acetylcholine concentrations (10-9M, 10-8M, 10-7M, 10-6M). Meformin increased the sensitivity of the aorta to noradrenaline-induced contraction. The maximal effect in vitro was seen after 4 hours giving a 221% increase in contraction after 4 hours at noradrenaline 10-6M. Acetylcholine-stimulated relaxation via endothelium also increased with metformin after 4 hours by 36.85%. The maximal effect of metformin treatment in vivo was seen on aortic contraction after 8 weeks: the effect of melformin treatment on relaxation was less marked at this time. Metformin also increased passive tension generated by the aortic vessel wall after 4 hours, which was reversed by administration of papaverine, which acts directly on vascular smooth muscle. Metformin was shown not to alter nitric oxide production by the mouse aortic wall after 1 and 4 hours in vitro. Metformin lowered basal calcium concentrations, as measured by FURA/2AM, generating a slow sustained increase in calcium release induced by noradrenaline during contraction. This research programme has shown that metformin can increase both the contraction and relaxation capabilities of aortic sections treated both in vitro and in vivo with therapeutic concentrations of metformin at 10-5M. Metformin has been shown to act directly in the vascular wall to alter vascular contractility via effects on both vascular smooth muscle and endothelium, and to influence calcium movements independently of nitric oxide.
Date of Award2003
Original languageEnglish


  • metformin
  • vascular system

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