Snail venom could offer new way of treating people with diabetes

Scientists have found that venom from the cone snail helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, which could pave the way for the development of new fast-acting drug options for people with diabetes.

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire examined the variants of the toxic insulin-like venom – known as Con-Ins – which is used by the cone snail to paralyse its prey.

Associate professor of chemical engineering, Harish Vashisth, said: “Diabetes is rising at an alarming rate and it’s become increasingly important to find new alternatives for developing effective and budget-friendly drugs for patients suffering with the disease.

“Our work found that the modelled Con-Ins variants, or analogues, bind even better to receptors in the body than the human hormone and may work faster which could make them a favourable option for stabilising blood sugar levels and a potential for new therapeutics.”

The venom from the snail induces a hypoglycaemic reaction that lowers blood sugar levels. Researchers examined the venom’s peptide sequence and used computer simulations of each Con-Ins variant complex with human insulin receptor to test their stability.

Lead author and postdoctoral research associate Biswajit Gorai said: “While more studies are needed, our research shows that despite the shorter peptide sequences, the cone snail venom could be a viable substitute and we are hopeful it will motivate future designs for new fast-acting drug options.”

The study has been published in Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics.

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