Researchers Create a New Type of Insulin Using Sea Snail Venom

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - 15:06

Researchers have claimed that Insulin developed from the venom of a predatory sea snail could be used to create a 'safer and more effective' diabetes treatment.

University of Utah scientists developed what they call the world's smallest, fully functional version of the insulin hormone from the venom, Daily Mail reports.

They say the findings, based on animal studies, could jumpstart the development of insulin treatments capable of improving the lives of those with diabetes.

It mimics the ultra-fast-acting properties of the sea snail venom to lower blood sugar levels, without long-term side effects seen in other types of diabetes treatment.

'We now have the capability to create a hybrid version of insulin that works in humans and that also appears to have many of the positive attributes of cone snail insulin,' says Danny Hung-Chieh Chou, one of the study authors.

Cone snails slither across coral reefs and as they do so they are constantly on the prowl for prey - one version of the species gives off a plume of toxic venom.

Chou and colleagues discovered that the venomous insulin from the snail had similar traits to human insulin and worked faster.

Faster-acting insulin would diminish the risk of hyperglycemia and other serious complications of diabetes, says Helena Safavi, a study co-author.

Safavi from the University of Copenhagen said it also could improve the performance of insulin pumps or artificial pancreas devices.

Adding that this would automatically release insulin into the body as needed. "We want to help people with diabetes to more tightly and rapidly control their blood sugar," she says.

In pursuit of their goal, the researchers found that insulin derived from cone snail venom lacks a 'hinge' component that causes human insulin to aggregate or clump together so it can be stored in the pancreas.

The study appears in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

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