A drug based on the spit of a poisonous lizard could help thousands of diabetics across the UK to avoid complications including blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease .
Basing their research on the pink and black Gila monster, scientists discovered several years ago that saliva from the lizards contain chemicals that are similar to human hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. The drug, exenatide, serves to stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin.
The chemical acts like human hormone glucagons-like-peptide-1. Amongst type 2 diabetics, this hormone gives off a weak signal. The drug, exenatide, was released onto the diabetic market in the UK last week under the name byetta.
Dr. Trautma, of Eli Lilly, reportedly commented: “The development of exenatide is an excellent example of how greater understanding of the physiology of humans can lead to innovative treatment discoveries. The GLP-1 mechanism plays an important role as an incretin in regulating blood glucose, intestinal food absorptio, and appetite. The Gila monster only eats three or four times a year, and a compound produced in its salivary glands called exendin-4 may help them digest these meals very slowly over time. That is an advantageous quality when translated into controlling diabetes .”

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