Diabetes News And Latest Update: Cone Snail Venom Insulin A Key To Better Treatment For Diabetes?

First Posted: Sep 14, 2016 05:10 AM EDT

There have been several attempts to create a drug that would help patients diagnosed with diabetes. Now, an Australian study has found that the venom from a species of marine cone snails could be a major key in developing artificial, fast-acting insulin that could lead to more effective insulin therapies for diabetic patients.

According to NDTV, Xinhua News Agency reported that researchers from Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) found an unusual 3D structure of the insulin, a hormone that converts glucose ingested in the liver and skeletal muscle cells, inside the cone snail's venom which showed how these natural proteins called Con-Ins G1 can function faster than human insulin.

The team was also able to discover that Con-Ins G1 can bind to human receptors, which shows potential to be used in human therapy. Mike Lawrence, leader of WEHI's participation in the research, explained that the discovery was a huge progress and would help scientists create an artificial version of the fast-acting insulin.

"We found that cone snail venom insulins work faster than human insulins by avoiding the structural changes that human insulins undergo in order to function -- they are essentially primed and ready to bind to their receptors," Lawrence said.

Indian Express also reported Lawrence saying that human insulin could be considered 'clunky' compared to the 3D insulin that was found in the cone snail's venom. He explained, "The structure of human insulins contain an extra 'hinge' component that has to open before any 'molecular handshake' or connection between insulin and receptor can take place."

He said that by observing the 3D structure of the snail venom's insulin, they were able to discover how to extract the entire 'hinge' which could hasten the cell's signaling process that would, in turn, speed up the effects of the insulin. These findings were based on earlier studies from 2015 when the University of Utah reported that Conus geographus, a marine cone snail, used insulin-based venom to trap its prey, reported Science Daily.

Researchers said there were fascinated to discover how the cone snail's insulin acted so fast on its prey and that the peptide could have a therapeutic potential in humans. "We were thrilled to find that the principles of cone snail venom insulins could be applied to a human setting," said Helena Safavi-Hemami from the University of Utah.

Meanwhile, it is also important to note that Safavi-Hemami also said the on-going study's next step is to apply these findings to the design of new and better treatments for diabetes, which will give patients faster-acting insulin. The study appears in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

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