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Monotreme Venom’s Potential as a Diabetes Drug

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Remarkable evolutionary changes to insulin regulation in two of the nation’s most iconic native animal species – the platypus and the echidna – could pave the way for new treatments for type 2 diabetes in humans.

A study published in Scientific Reports has reported that the same hormone produced in the gut of the platypus to regulate blood glucose is also surprisingly produced in its venom.

The hormone, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is normally secreted in the gut of humans and other animals, stimulating the release of insulin to lower blood glucose. However, GLP-1 typically degrades within minutes.

In people with type 2 diabetes, the short stimulus triggered by GLP-1 isn’t sufficient to maintain a proper blood sugar balance. As a result, medication that includes a longer-lasting form of the hormone is needed to help provide an extended release of insulin.

“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 co-lead author Prof Frank Grützner of The University of Adelaide. “We’ve found that GLP-1 is degraded in monotremes by a completely different mechanism.

“Further analysis of the genetics of monotremes reveals that there seems to be a kind of molecular warfare going on...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.