Impact of metformin on reproductive tissues: an overview from gametogenesis to gestation
Metformin is an oral anti-hyperglycemic drug that acts as an insulin sensitizer in the treatment of diabetes mellitus type 2. It has also been widely used in the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and gestational diabetes. This drug has been shown to activate a protein kinase called 5' AMP-activated protein kinase or AMPK. AMPK is present in many tissues making metformin’s effect multi factorial. However as metformin crosses the placenta, its use during pregnancy raises concerns regarding potential adverse effects on the mother and fetus. The majority of reports suggest no significant adverse effects or teratogenicity. However, disconcerting reports of male mouse offspring that were exposed to metformin in utero that present with a reduction in testis size, seminiferous tubule size and in Sertoli cell number suggest that we do not understand the full suite of effects of metformin. In addition, recent molecular evidence is suggesting an epigenetic effect of metformin which could explain some of the long-term effects reported. Nevertheless, the data are still insufficient to completely confirm or disprove negative effects of metformin. The aims of this review are to provide a summary of the safety of metformin in various aspects of sexual reproduction, the use of metformin by gestating mothers, and its possible side-effects on offspring from women who are administered metformin during pregnancy.