The incentives placed upon medical development ensure that far too much attention is given to ways in which established, existing drugs can be reused in other contexts, even given marginal effect sizes. It is much cheaper to repurpose an existing drug to a marginal new use than it is to build an actually effective new drug. To the extent that aging becomes a popular target for drug development, and one might argue that this is in the process of happening, every existing drug is going to be scrutinized in this context. Anti-diabetic drugs in particular seem to receive a lot of attention for potential marginal ability to slow aging in some way.
Here we propose that SGLT2 inhibitors (SGLT2i), a class of drugs primarily used to treat type 2 diabetes, could also be repositioned as anti-aging senomorphic drugs (agents that prevent the extrinsic harmful effects of senescent cells). As observed for metformin, another anti-diabetic drug with established anti-aging potential, increasing evidence suggests that SGLT2i can modulate some relevant pathways associated with the aging process, such as free radical production, cellular energy regulation through AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), autophagy, and the activation of nuclear factor (NF)-kB/inflammasome. Some interesting pro-healthy effects were also observed on human microbiota.
All these mechanisms converge on fueling a systemic proinflammatory condition called inflammaging, now recognized as the main risk factor for accelerated aging and increased risk of age-related disease development and progression. Inflammaging can be worsened by cellular senescence and immunosenescence, which contributes to the increased burden of senescent cells during aging, perpetuating the proinflammatory condition. Interestingly, increasing evidence suggested the direct effects of SGLT-2i against senescent cells, chronic activation of immune cells, and metabolic alterations induced by overnutrition (meta-inflammation). In this framework, we analyzed and discussed the multifaceted impact of SGLT2i, compared with metformin effects, as a potential anti-aging drug beyond diabetes management. Despite promising results in experimental studies, rigorous investigations with well-designed cellular and clinical investigations will need to validate SGLT2 inhibitors' anti-aging effects.