Nature Research Center

Gila Monsters Might Cure Diabetes

Taking exenatide, a drug that is a synthetic form of a substance found in Gila monster saliva, led to healthy sustained glucose levels and progressive weight loss among people with type 2 diabetes. Exenatide is a synthetic form of a hormone called exendin-4 that occurs naturally in the saliva of the Gila monster, a venomous lizard native to the American Southwest. Gila monsters only eat about twice a year, so their insulin has to be very efficient. The lizard hormone is about 50 percent similar to a human hormone called GLP-1 that increases the production of insulin when blood sugar levels are high.

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How does it work?

“Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered how a hormone turns on a series of molecular switches inside the pancreas that increases production of insulin.”