Scientists have found a new possible promising lead for treating diabetes. They obtained the treatment from perhaps the unlikeliest places – in the most unique animals native to Australia. As the research claims, the venom of ‘duck-billed’ platypus could prove helpful.
The Platypus and echidna are the only surviving egg-laying mammals. But, what sets them apart from the rest of the animals is their ability to produce a hormone variant. This hormone variant could help those with diabetes manage their blood sugar more effectively.
This hormone is called GLP-1 or glucagon-like peptide–1. Furthermore, some animals and humans produce this hormone as well. It is secreted in the gut, and it stimulated the pancreas to emit insulin to decrease the blood glucose levels.
How it Works
The Australian researchers led by the Flinders University and the University of Adelaide, claim that there is one problem with this system. They state that humans do produce GLP-1, but it breaks down very fast.
In fact, it starts to degrade in the system in a matter of minutes. As a result, people can’t manage their blood sugar effectively. In other words, the tiny burst of insulin that this hormone trigger is not enough to assist the lower blood sugar levels.
In addition, those with type 2 diabetes eventually start to depend on medications to try and stabilize their condition. Furthermore, not all GLP-1 hormones are equal. Therefore, researchers tried to use platypus venom to see its effects.
Platypus Venom the New Treatment
According to the Australian researchers, the platypus venom may pave the way for a new and effective way of treating type 2 diabetes. Since the male mammals are the only ones who lay eggs, the venomous spurs are located on the heels of their feet.
They use this poison to defend themselves. But, the scientists believe that this poison could be used for more. They claim that it could help treat diabetes more easily. Since the GLP-1 hormone in humans degrades very fast, this hormone in the mammals could prove effective.
It can decrease the blood glucose levels and promote insulin release.
In fact, the scientist claim that this treatment might even have a lasting effect. That is what makes this iconic Australian species so amazing. The lead researcher Prof Frank Grutzer told the news why researchers decided to look at this iconic creature.
Why the Platypus?
From the genome analyses, scientists already knew that the platypus had unique control of their metabolic system. In fact, they do not have a normal functioning stomach. This made it difficult for us to understand how they digested their food.
However, they are not the only animals who use insulin to defend themselves against enemies. The venomous lizard, Gila monster, which is native to Mexico and US, also uses insulin. Plus, the sea snail or geographer cone can destroy schools of fish by simply releasing insulin into the sea.
They use insulin as a ‘weapon’ to destroy their enemies. Obviously, insulin is a powerful weapon that needs to be used with precaution. This weapon is what helped scientist discover the possible new treatment.
Further Testing and Experiments
To conclude their findings, scientists had to conduct various experiments. They tested their new findings on mice to see how it will affect the blood glucose levels. But, the truth is, more testing is necessary to know for sure if this treatment could indeed treat diabetes.
Scientists say that there is a long journey ahead of them. One that needs more work to be completely sure that such a treatment could be effective for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. For now, only time will tell.