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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