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Platypus Venom May Be Key To Treating Type 2 Diabetes

1 December 2016, 8:52 am EST By Livia Rusu Tech Times
A new study conducted by an Australian team of scientists suggests that a hormone found in both humans and animals could be changed in order to produce insulin. The research analyzed the evolutionary changes in the hormone's functions.  ( Koichi Kamoshida | Getty Images )

Evolutionary changes to insulin regulation in two Australian animal species — the platypus and the echidna — could represent a new way to treat patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes. The research analyzed a hormone and its possible effects on humans.

The study, published, Nov. 29, in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that the hormone produced in the gut of the platypus in order to control blood glucose is also produced in its venom.

Hormone Changes - Possible Solution To Type 2 Diabetes

The hormone, called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is generally released in the gut of humans and animals, and it is vital in our organisms, as it stimulates the secretion of insulin, which lowers blood glucose. However, this hormone is known to dissipate in a matter of minutes.

When it comes to people who suffer from diabetes, the stimulus that this hormone triggers is very short, which makes it impossible to maintain a sugar balance in the blood. This creates a need to develop a from of this hormone that can last longer, in order to actually trigger the insulin release.

What the research discovered in monotremes , the two species of animals investigated in the study, is that they have an evolutionary manner to prolong the effects of the hormone, which would otherwise degrade very fast if it happens in humans.

"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," noted co-lead author Professor Frank Grutzner, from the University of Adelaide's School of Biological Sciences .

GLP-1 Hormone Could Treat Diabetes

Further, the scientists analyzed two conflicting functions that the same hormone carries out. This dual purpose of the hormone has led to significant changes of the GLP-1 and the way it works, causing a stable form of the hormone to occur in these animals.

According to the authors of the study, it is millions of years of evolutionary changes that contribute to this optimization in organic matter. The research opens a way to analyze how this type of behavior could actually be translated into a formula that could treat type 2 diabetes.

Further research will establish how this information, the way the GLP-1 hormone has changed, could help developing more efficient diabetes treatment.

Developing this treatment would be especially helpful for people who suffer from both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, due to the serious health implications of the combination.

As there are no other solutions available for patients who have diabetes at the moment, the current medication involves treating the patients with insulin even from the early stages of the disease, as it protects beta cells in the pancreas that respond to glucose and produce insulin, according to another study.

While the scientific community is preoccupied to find an efficient formula to treat this disease, a study published in July 2016 has shown no clear difference between patients who took any of nine available anti-diabetic drugs.

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