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Scientists Turn to Platypus Venom for Future Treatment of Diabetes

Nov 30, 2016 05:53 AM EST
Scientists look into the potential of Platypus venom as basis for new treatments for type 2 diabetes in humans.
(Photo : John Moore/Getty Images)

A new study from the University of Adelaide in Australia looks into the potential of Platypus venom as basis for new treatments for type 2 diabetes in humans.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the same hormone produced in the gut of the platypus, which is responsible for regulating blood glucose, is also produced in their venom.

"This is an amazing example of how millions of years of evolution can shape molecules and optimise their function," commented co-lead author Professor Frank Grutzner, from the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences and the Robinson Research Institute, in a press release. "These findings have the potential to inform diabetes treatment, one of our greatest health challenges, although exactly how we can convert this finding into a treatment will need to be the subject of future research."

The hormone, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is responsible for stimulating the release of insuling to lower blood glucose. Normally, these hormones are secreted in the gut of both humans and animals and degrade within minutes.

In the case of patients with type 2 diabetes, the stimulation produced by the GLP-1 is not enough maintain proper blood sugar. Due to this, medications that have longer lasting form of the hormone is necessary to help provide extended release of insulin.

The researchers found that the GLP-1 being produced in the gut of platypus also occurs in its venom. However, the GLP-1 in the venom are surprisingly more stable and longer lasting than those produced in the gut. The researchers noted that the dramatic changes in the stability of GLP-1 produced in the venom are the result of the tug of war between the different functions of GLP-1 in platypus.

The GLP-1 produce in the gut of the platypus acts the same way as the one being released in humans. On the other hand, the GLP-1 produced in the venom fends off other platypus males during their breeding season.

Due to the stability of the GLP-1 in the venom, the researchers are looking into its potential as new treatment for type 2 diabetes. The researchers are now finding out ways to convert their findings into possible commercial treatment for type 2 diabetes.

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