Already targeted as a possible answer to the world’s superbug woes, Australia’s humble platypus is now being positioned as a weapon against diabetes.
A hormone found in the venom and gut of the platypus is to be investigated for its potential to treat type 2 diabetes by a team of Australian researchers.
Known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), the hormone is normally secreted in the gut of humans and animals, stimulating the release of insulin to lower blood glucose.
A modified form of GLP-1, called exenatide, is widely used for diabetes treatment.
It’s thought the hormone in the platypus, which has changed, could be more effective and sustained than the current medication, project leader Professor Frank Grutzner, from the University of Adelaide said.
“One of the most amazing discoveries of the platypus genome project was the massive loss of genes important for digestion and metabolic control – these animals basically lack a functional stomach,” Professor Grutzner said.
“More recently we discovered that monotreme GLP-1 has changed radically in these animals, due to its dual function in both the gut and venom.”
The effects of platypus-derived GLP-1 are being explored in detail thanks to a $200,000 grant from Medvet Science, the medical research support and commercialisation arm of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network.
Numerous research groups worldwide are already investigating different forms of GLP-1 for their effects on metabolic diseases, including diabetes.
“Maybe this iconic Australian animal holds the answer to a more effective and safer management option for metabolic diseases including diabetes,” Professor Grutzner said.
Earlier this year, a protein in the humble mammal’s milk – dubbed the “Shirley Temple” – was identified by CSIRO researchers as a potential answer to the world’s superbug woes, due to its antibacterial qualities.