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Sea Snail Venom: Holding Key To Diabetes Medication

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Sea snail is holding key for treatment of diabetes. (Image courtesy: Google)

Diabetes has remained a long discussed topic among scientists. It is mainly caused by deficiency of insulin in the body which makes absorption of glucose difficult in body.

Hence diabetes patients are provided by external insulin for covering up with the deficiency of insulin in body.

Yet the main problem with this insulin is that it is slow acting. This insulin takes about 15 minutes for binding itself with human cells and making the blood glucose absorb.

For coping up with this problem quite many findings are going on for the diabetic patients. One of such finding includes injecting the cone snail’s venom in body.

When venom of these cone snail was injected into body of the fish, it elicits hypoglycemic shock or dangerously lower blood glucose.

Newer Treatments for Diabetes: Snail’s Venom

For the case of alternative treatments of the newer discoveries, scientists are offering quite many treatments which were ignored before. One such possible treatment includes insulin from cone snail venom.

Diabetes: Deficiency of insulin causes body to absorb lesser starch. (Image Courtesy: Google)
Diabetes: Deficiency of insulin causes body to absorb lesser starch. (Image courtesy: Google)

Biologists from the University of Utah has discovered in 2015 a kind of specialised insulin which was used for chemical warfare by cone snails which were hunting for fish.

When this venom was injected into fish, it elicits hypoglycemic shock or dangerously lower glucose. Researchers are trying to make the artificial version of this fast-acting insulin, a protein which is forming a hinge.

Without any amino acids, hinge mechanism would not work and hence insulin can not bind over to the receptor on the cell surface. Regular insulin is taking about 15 minutes before it shows its effect among diabetes patient.

Using cone snail’s venom was one of the model. Mike Lawrence which is a structural biologist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute says that the effect of the next generation insulin could be instantaneous for type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Work of Venom of Snail in Humans:

Lawrence commenting over the same says, “Our breakthrough has been to determine the structure of this venom insulin. The ‘ah-ha moment’ was realising that it doesn’t have the hinge mechanism that human insulin does and then working out how it gets by without it.”

Lawrence explaining the same says though the insulin was made from sea snail, it was designed to work over fish which is a vertebrate species like humans.

As fish is closer to humans, biologists are expecting that the venom will prove to be effective for humans too.

Once the snail’s prey is into the hypoglycemic shock, its mollusk strikes and slurps its target.

As fish is fast moving and snail is not, snail needs a venom which is fast acting. Snail’s venom insulin is a smaller substitute for the hinge which is made of just one amino acid.

Study is published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology in an international collaboration which involved American and Danish researchers and scientists from Australian institutions.

It even included the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Monash University, La Trobe University and Flinders University.

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