By: Sasha Klemawesch, MD
Most people know the Duckbill Platypus as one of the only two mammals that lay eggs rather than give birth to live offspring (the other being the Echidna (spiny anteater) but no one remembers him!). However, they are ALSO some of the few mammals who produce venom. Others on the list include vampire bats, hedgehogs, shrews, and moles.
Researchers in Australia have discovered that the Platypus’s venom contains a hormone called GLP-1. Humans also have a form of it, but ours has a very short half-life, while theirs is much more durable. Both of them function similarly though, by stimulating production of insulin, which in turn helps to lower blood sugar, so researchers are studying the monotreme hormone to see if they can manipulate it to use in management of type 2 diabetes. While there are already several GLP-1 Agonists on the market, (think Trulicity, Saxenda, et al), experts hope that the more natural derivation may provide further benefits; perhaps it may be able to be compounded in an oral tablet, since all the current GLP-1 medications are injections, or perhaps it may even be able to be used in a wider variety of patients, such as those with renal or pancreas dysfunction (in whom use of current GLP-1A’s is still considered controversial).