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Diabetes Treatment: Venom From Cone Snails Lower Blood Sugar Levels, New Study Shows

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire have found a potential treatment for diabetes from a cone snail’s venom. The smooth, mottled shell is popular among seashell collectors for its colorful patterns, but researchers found that variants of the venom called cone snail insulin (Con-Ins) offer future possibilities for developing novel fast-acting drugs for diabetes treatment.


cone snail's deadly venom

A snail extends its proboscis and discharges a shot of venom into a latex-topped tube. (PHOTO: Alex Holt/NIST CHS, June 9, 2017)

Finding Alternative Treatments for Diabetes

The team reported finding some variants f the venom of cone snails that can potentially become alternatives for diabetes treatment, according to Ani News. Associate professor of chemical engineering Harish Vashisth said that the alarming rising cases of diabetes have prompted scientists to find alternatives for developing effective budget-friendly drugs for diabetic patients.

He added that their recent study on Con-Ins shows that they bind even better to receptors in the body than the natural insulin hormone produced in the pancreas. More so, it may work faster to make them more favorable for stabilizing blood sugar levels and for potential novel therapeutics.

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Venom From Cone Snails Lower Blood Sugar Levels

In the study, the team described how cone snail venom induces a hypoglycemic reaction that lowers blood sugar levels. They wrote that the venom’s peptide sequence allows it to bind to human insulin receptors and is shorter than the insulin produced in the body.

Science Daily reported that researchers utilized sequences of the insulin-like peptides of Cgeographus’s venom as a template to model six different Con-Ins analogs. Then they conducted multiple independent computer simulations of each Con-Ins variant complex with human insulin receptor while mimicking a near-physiological environment.

Each insulin complex remained stable during simulations, while the designed peptides bound strongly better than human insulin hormone. Researchers noticed that the Con-Ins variant exhibits feasible residue substitutions in human insulin.

Postdoctoral research associate and the study’s lead author Biswajit Gorai said that the study shows that the cone snail venom can be a viable substitute and could potentially motivate future designs for novel diabetes treatment despite the shorter peptide sequences.

Researchers also noted that more studies are needed and warned that certain cone snails may also release insulin-like venom but that they might be highly dangerous and may cause hypoglycemic shock that immobilizes fish or cause human fatalities.

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