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The Wacky World of Diabetes

Dec 17, 2016

Guest Post by David Kliff, Editor, Diabetic Investor

Never let it said that this wacky world is devoid of some strange facts. Back in the day, it was discovered that exenatide was derived from Gila Monster saliva. Today GLP-1 therapy is one of the fastest growing segments of the diabetes drug market. As I have noted on numerous occasions, GLP-1 therapy offers several compelling advantages.


Therefore, I am neither shocked nor surprised that researchers at the University of Adelaide have discovered the platypus and echidna produce a long-lasting form of the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Yes, according to this research, the GLP-1 produced not only in the platypus’ gut, but also in its venom, did not degrade quickly.

According to lead researcher Frank Grutzner: “We’ve found that GLP-1 is degraded in monotremes [platypus, echidna] by a completely different mechanism.

Further analysis of the genetics of monotremes reveals that there seems to be a kind of molecular warfare going on between the function of GLP-1, which is produced in the gut, but also surprisingly in their venom.”

Now I have no idea what new and exciting drugs this will lead to, but given the popularity of GLP-1 therapy you can bet drug companies will not ignore this research. The one concern I have is whether some bunch of animal rights activists will rally to defend the platypus. According to Wikipedia: “Until the early 20th century, it was hunted for its fur, but it is now protected throughout its range. Although captive breeding programs have had only limited success and the platypus is vulnerable to the effects of pollution, it is not under any immediate threat.”

Yet think of how this might change should this research ultimately lead to a whole new series of diabetes treatments. Remember diabetes is a global epidemic and demand for drugs will only increase in the future. Just by way of contrast and according to Wikipedia: “Though the Gila monster is venomous, its sluggish nature means it represents little threat to humans. However, it has earned a fearsome reputation and is sometimes killed despite being protected by state law in Arizona.”

Perhaps this is the reason animal rights activists did not rush to defend the Gila Monster when it was discovered their saliva could help patients with diabetes. While there is no way of knowing this for sure, we also believe another reason Gila Monsters got a pass was, as Wikipedia notes, they are nasty little buggers. However, the same cannot be said for the platypus. Don’t take our word for it. Google platypus and look at how cute they are. They may not be as cute and cuddly as baby seals but they are cute little buggers.

Looking ahead, Diabetic Investor sees a battle brewing between animal rights activists and big, bad pharma. I also see the distinct possibility that these activists will join forces with diabetes activists who are blaming big, bad pharma for the high out-of-pocket cost of insulin. Heck, the next thing you know big, bad pharma will be blamed for the Kennedy assassination, global warming and the Cleveland Browns.

This, after all, is the wacky world of diabetes where anything can and usually does happen no matter how crazy it seems.

David Kliff, Publisher, Diabetic Investor – www.diabeticinvestor.com

Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 37744 (2016)  doi:10.1038/srep37744