One of only two species of poisonous lizard may hold an interesting piece in the diabetes puzzle encoded into its DNA. The Gila monster, found in South western American, have a unique protein in their poisonous venom. The aim for researchers is to understand how the protein works within the lizard’s body, and applying the knowledge to other animals and eventually humans.
The study is taking place at the University of Alabama, and is using 18 lizards bought to the University. The lizards are obtained when human development affects their natural habitat. Gila monsters are extremely sensitive and are unable to adapt to new habitats, meaning that they cannot be relocated.
The protein present in the Gila monsters venom is called exendin 4. Gila venom is potent enough to kill their major prey such as young rabbits and mice, but is not fatal to humans. Gila monsters only eat very rarely, as little as two times in a year, and they survive by storing deposits of fat in their tails.
Exendin 4 helps maintain insulin and control blood glucose in the long period between Gila monster meals. Researchers found that the protein lasts longer than any other diabetes drug. The pharmaceutical company Amylin is said to be in development of a diabtes drug based on exendin.

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