Platypus Venom Could Be The Future of Diabetes Treatments
Scientists have found a promising new lead for diabetes treatments in perhaps the unlikeliest of places: the venom of the Australian 'duck-billed' platypus.
The platypus – along with its compatriot, the echidna – are the world's only surviving monotremes, which means they're egg-laying mammals. But what also sets these animals apart is they've evolved to produce a hormone variant, and it's one that could help us to control blood sugar levels more effectively.
The hormone, called glucagon-like peptide–1 (GLP–1), is also produced in humans and other animals. GLP–1 is secreted in the gut, where it stimulates the pancreas to release insulin to lower high glucose levels.
The only problem with this system, according to Australian researchers led by the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, is that human GLP–1 usually breaks down very quickly, degrading in the body in a matter of minutes.
This means, in the case of people with type 2 diabetes, the short burst of insulin triggered by the hormone isn't enough to sustain lower blood sugar levels, which is why some type 2 diabetics eventually develop a dependence on medications or insulin-based treatments.
But not all GLP–1 hormones are created equal it seems – and that's where platypus venom comes in.
"Our research team has discovered that monotremes – our iconic platypus and echidna – have evolved changes in the hormone GLP–1 that make it resistant to the rapid degradation normally seen in humans," says researcher Frank Grutzner from the University of Adelaide.
"We've found that GLP–1 is degraded in Continue reading