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Venom from snails could assist with diabetes management

By Tim Sandle     Sep 15, 2016 in Science
Scientists have examined a cone snail venom insulin. The inquiry into these proteins suggests they operate faster than human insulin. The natural proteins have the potential to be used as a human therapeutic medicine.
The cone snail venom insulin proteins are termed Con-Ins G1 and they have been identified by a project between U.S. and Australian scientists. The molecular study indicates that, in theory, the proteins can operate faster than human insulin. In addition, the research has shown that the receptors have the ability to bind to human insulin receptors. This means that the proteins could be used as treatment for diabetes.
In order to discover the properties about the protein venom the Australian Synchrotron was used analyse the three-dimensional structure of the protein. The Australian Synchrotron is the national synchrotron radiation facility located in Clayton. The device uses particle accelerators to produce a beam of high energy electrons for the purpose of high resolution imagery.
In a research note, the lead scientist Professor Mike Lawrence explains the study outcome: "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."
In nature, the marine cone snail Conus geographus uses insulin-based venom to trap its prey. With this, fish prey swim into the invisible trap and immediately become immobilised in a state of hyperglycaemic shock induced by the venom. In addition to fish, all cone snails are venomous and capable of "stinging" humans.
The venoms contain many different toxins that vary in their effects; some are extremely toxic. The toxins in these various venoms are termed conotoxins. The venoms are formed from various peptides, each targeting a specific nerve channel or receptor.
In addition to being a deadly venom, the protein has the potential to be used as a diabetes treatment for humans (and one that is faster acting than human insulin). Before this stage is reached, a considerable battery of tests and trials would be required.
The research findings are published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. The research paper is titled “Cone snail venom is a fast-acting insulin mimetic.”
More about snail venom, Insulin, Diabetes
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