A new understanding of the way a platypus regulates insulin could pave the way for new treatments for type 2 diabetes.
Researchers from a team including Federation University Australia discovered that the same hormone produced in the gut of the platypus to regulate blood glucose is also produced in their venom.
The same hormone is also secreted in the human gut, but normally degrades within minutes.
In people with type 2 diabetes, this isn’t sufficient to maintain their blood sugar balance.
As a result, they need medication that includes a longer-lasting form of the hormone to provide an extended release of insulin.
The research team discovered that monotremes – the platypus and echidna – have evolved changes to the hormone, making it resistant to this rapid degradation.
In the platypus, the hormone functions in the gut as a regulator of blood glucose, and in venom to fend off other platypus males during breeding season.
The function in venom has most likely triggered the evolution of a stable form of the hormone which is highly desirable as a potential type two diabetes treatment.
“This is an amazing example of how millions of years of evolution can shape molecules and optimise their function,” said Associate Professor Mark Myers of Federation University.
The research team also included Professor Frank Grützner at the University of Adelaide and Associate Professor Briony Forbes at Flinders University as well as researchers from Monash University and Melbourne University.
You can read more about this study here. Story credits: Federation University and Flinders University newsrooms
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