Could The Platypus be the Answer to Type 2 Diabetes Treatment?
The platypus may be a strange-looking species, but new research suggests that these little guys might help pave the way for a new type 2 diabetes treatment
According to a new study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, a hormone found in the platypus' - and his cousin the echidna's - venom could help regulate blood glucose.
An Evolutionary Advantage
Humans, platypuses, and echidnas all produce a hormone in their gut that helps to stimulate insulin release and lower blood glucose. However, the humans and the monotremes have one crucial difference; while the hormone (known as GLP-1) breaks down within minutes in the human body, monotromes' GLP-1 hormone is resilient and longer lasting.
Researchers from the University of Adelaide and Flinders University in South Australia have discovered that the platypus actually produces GLP-1 in two parts of their bodies – in their guts, and in their venom.
"The function in venom has most likely triggered the evolution of a stable form of GLP-1 in monotremes,” said Professor Briony Forbes from Flinders University's School of Medicine. “Excitingly, stable GLP-1 molecules are highly desirable as potential type 2 diabetes treatments."
In people with type 2 diabetes, the GLP-1 that is naturally produced does not stimulate a great enough trigger to release enough insulin to lower blood sugars. In fact, much of the medications prescribed to type 2 diabetics included a longer-lasting version of the hormone, ensuring that the body releases sufficient insulin.
The results of this study optimistically point to the possibility of stronger, longer-lasting hormones occurring naturally in the body. Of course, there's first the matter of finding out how to do it. As co-author Frank Grutzner from the University of Adelaide said:
"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."