Platypus Venom May Hold Clues to Fighting Type 2 Diabetes

Australian researchers have discovered remarkable evolutionary changes to insulin regulation in two of the nation's most iconic native animal species - the platypus and the echidna - which could pave the way for new treatments for type 2 diabetes in humans. The findings, published online on November 29, 2016 in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, reveal that the same hormone produced in the gut of the platypus to regulate blood glucose is also surprisingly produced in its venom. The research is led by Professor Frank Grutzner at the University of Adelaide and Associate Professor Briony Forbes at Flinders University. The open-access article is titled “Monotreme Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 in Venom Gut—One Gene, Two Vdery Different Functions.” The hormone, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is normally secreted in the gut of both humans and animals, stimulating the release of insulin to lower blood glucose. But 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 Professor Frank Grutzner, from the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences and the Robinson Research Institute. "We've found that GLP-1 is degraded in monotremes by a completely different mechanism.
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