The Platypus: A Good Friend of Diabetics?

Venom found in the claws of the common platypus might offer help for glucose management in diabetics.


Researchers look everywhere in search of a cure for diabetes. Even to mammals like the platypus.

A recent study in Australia led by Professor Frank Grutzner at the University of Adelaide and Associate Professor Briony Forbes at Flinders University appears to offer new answers in blood glucose management.

Grutzner’s work points to the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which is normally secreted in the gut of both humans and animals, stimulating the release of insulin to lower blood glucose.

The focal point of the study, whose findings are found in Scientific Reports, is the timing, as GLP-1 typically breaks down within minutes with minimal impact on blood sugar levels.

But, the platypus has a different strain of GLP-1 that degrades much slower and more effectively. It is found in its venom, which males produce and release through spurs in their hind paws.

“Our research team has discovered that monotremes — our iconic platypus and echidna — have evolved changes in the hormone GLP-1 that make it resistant to the rapid degradation normally seen in humans,” said Grutzner.

And, according to co-lead Forbes, those unique qualities could be real game-changers for the millions of people worldwide who suffer from Type 2 diabetes.

“The function in venom has most likely triggered the evolution of a stable form of GLP-1 in monotremes. Excitingly, stable GLP-1 molecules are highly desirable as potential type 2 diabetes treatments.”

The “long-lasting form of the hormone GLP-1 is in itself a very exciting finding,” Professor Grutzner says.