Sydney, November 30 : A hormone produced in the venom of platypus -- an egg-laying mammal native to Australia -- can pave the way for potential new treatments for Type 2 diabetes in humans, researchers have found.
The study found that platypus produces hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) -- normally secreted in the gut of both humans and animals for stimulating the release of insulin to lower blood glucose, but insufficient to maintain proper blood sugar balance.
"Our research has discovered that platypus have evolved changes in the hormone GLP-1 that make it resistant to the rapid degradation normally seen in humans," said Professor Frank Grutzner of the University of Adelaide in Australia.
The GLP-1 hormone produced in the gut of the platypus, which helps regulate blood glucose, is also produced in their venom to fend off other platypus males during breeding season, the researchers said.
"This tug of war between the different functions has resulted in dramatic changes in the GLP-1 system. The function in venom has most likely triggered the evolution of a stable form of GLP-1 in monotremes.
"Stable GLP-1 molecules are highly desirable as potential Type 2 diabetes treatments," added Briony Forbes, Associate Professor at Flinders University.
In addition, GLP-1 has also been discovered in the venom of echidnas -- another egg-laying mammal.
While the platypus has spurs on its hind limbs for delivering a large amount of venom to its opponent, there is no such spur on echidnas.
"The lack of spur on echidnas remains an evolutionary mystery, but the fact that both platypus and echidnas have evolved the same long-lasting form of the hormone GLP-1 is in itself very exciting," Grutzner said.
These findings have the potential to improve 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," Grutzner observed, in the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.