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Diabetes research inspired by Australia’s native wildlife

With AusHealth Research Divisional Manager Justin Dibbens and Research Commercialisation Associate Ellen Swan

In light of World Diabetes Day, AusHealth is proud to provide a progress update on the diabetes research we are conducting, right here in Australia. According to the International Diabetes Foundation, the ailment impacts more than 500 million people around the world.

That’s why on on 14 November, we recognise World Diabetes Day — drawing attention to the importance of taking coordinated and concentrated efforts to address this global disease.

At AusHealth, diabetes research is just one of the causes we are committed to supporting, through our locally-led research team.

In light of National Diabetes Day, AusHealth Research’s Justin Dibbens and Ellen Swan are pleased to present an update on one of the projects we are funding.

AusHealth’s efforts to treat Type 2 diabetes

One of our most notable diabetes research projects aims to develop new drugs to improve glucose control in Type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and gradually becomes unable to produce enough insulin in the pancreas,” Justin Dibbens said. “This ailment represents typically 85–90 percent of all diabetes cases.”

However, AusHealth Research has found a new treatment inspired by the mating habits of our native wildlife.

“Male platypuses have venom producing spurs which are used to subdue competing males during mating,” Dibbens said. “One of the ways this venom works on the competing males is to lower their blood glucose, which affects their ability to fight.

“AusHealth is currently supporting proof of concept studies to demonstrate the role of agents present in the venom of platypuses to more effectively treat Type 2 diabetes.”

Using Platypus venom to treat diabetes

AusHealth’s ‘Platypep’ technology is based on the principle that the active agents in the venom can be utilized to develop an improved therapy for Type 2 diabetes.

Research Commercialisation Associate Ellen Swan explains.

“One of the most common blood glucose lowering agent for treating Type 2 diabetes is Exenatide, a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogue derived from the saliva of the Gila Monster – a reptile found in parts of both the United States and Mexico[ES1] .”

Closer to home, an active agent in the platypus venom has been identified to be a related GLP-1 hormone.

“These agents are postulated to have a similar effect as Exenatide.

“The research supported by AusHealth involves modifying the hormone to produce more effective treatments for Type 2 diabetes with reduced side effects, and to test the activity in animal models of diabetes.

“Our hope is that our work will eventually assist with commercially translating these technologies to assist patients with diabetes.”

More diabetes projects on the horizon for AusHealth

AusHealth Research has other diabetes research projects under development, which are not yet ready for publication. One of which involves a novel form of tissue targeting to control Type 2 diabetes.

However, diabetes isn’t the only project AusHealth Research is focused on. Along with medical researchers and universities across Australia, AusHealth continues to support the funding and development of treatments for pain relief, cancer, and bacterial infections.

“We aim to push these initiatives from proof of concept into eventual commercialisation, so they may better help the Australian and wider community,” Justin Dibbens said.

You can learn more about AusHealth’s medical research efforts here.

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