Frog skin molecule may unlock new type 2 diabetes treatment

Frog skin molecule may unlock new type 2 diabetes treatment
A new study has found that a molecule secreted by the East Asian bullfrog could offer a promising new treatment for type 2 diabetes. Early-stage research presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference revealed the protein was effective at boosting insulin production and improving glucose tolerance in mice.

More than five million people in the UK are living with diabetes, and about 90 per cent of them have the type 2 form of the disease.

This condition occurs when the insulin made by beta cells in the pancreas doesn't work properly, or the organ doesn't produce enough of the hormone. Managing type 2 diabetes can be difficult, making it crucial to have various treatment options available. Some medications, like Trulicity and Ozempic, are based on substances found in animal venoms and skin secretions. Previous research funded by Diabetes UK discovered a molecule in frog skin secretions called tigerinin-1R, which can boost insulin release and suppress glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels.

Dr Opeolu Ojo at the University of Wolverhampton led a study that examined the effects of combining tigerinin-1R with a hormone called GIP, a component of existing type 2 diabetes drug tirzepatide. This drug triggers insulin release from the pancreas and suppresses appetite.

The results showed that when combined, the two molecules did not cause any safety concerns and improved insulin secretion in lab cells. The dual-combination drug increased insulin production by 50 per cent in mice with type 2 diabetes compared to tigerinin-1R, and by 30 per cent compared to GIP alone.

The combination drug was also more effective at improving glucose tolerance in mice.

Dr Ojo highlighted the significant potential of peptides from amphibian skin secretions in his research, especially in the clinical use for treating type 2 diabetes. “By combining these peptides with some of the molecules that our body produces naturally, our desire is to create a safe and powerful alternative to current anti-diabetic medications which have many challenges, including their side effects and the ability to restore the body's ability to control blood glucose,” he said.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, praised the research for uncovering the untapped potential of the molecule, which could lead to better treatment options. “We look forward to exploring how this exciting new combination treatment could be used to help people living with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels and potentially reduce their risk of serious diabetes-related complications,” she said.
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