Platypus venom could hold key to diabetes treatment


Tuesday, 28 February, 2017

Platypus venom could hold key to diabetes treatment

Australian researchers have discovered remarkable evolutionary changes to insulin regulation in the platypus and the echidna — which could pave the way for new treatments for type 2 diabetes in humans.

The research team, led by Professor Frank Grützner at the University of Adelaide and Associate Professor Briony Forbes at Flinders University, has discovered these monotremes have evolved changes in the hormone GLP-1 that make them resistant to the rapid degradation normally seen in humans.

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.

“We’ve discovered conflicting functions of GLP-1 in the platypus: in the gut as a regulator of blood glucose and in venom to fend off other platypus males during breeding season,” said Professor Forbes.

“The function in venom has most likely triggered the evolution of a stable form of GLP-1 in monotremes,” she said.

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