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Hormone investigated

By Country News

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 by a team of Australian researchers for its potential to treat type 2 diabetes.

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.

‘‘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,’’ project leader Frank Grutzner, from the University of Adelaide, 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,’’ Professor Grutzner said.

The effects of platypus-derived GLP-1 are now being explored in detail.

‘‘Maybe this iconic Australian animal holds the answer to a more effective and safer management option for metabolic diseases including diabetes.’’

Earlier this year, a protein in the mammal’s milk — dubbed the ‘Shirley Temple’ — was identified by researchers from the CSIRO as a potential answer to the world’s superbug woes, due to its antibacterial qualities.