NEW DELHI: The spit of a giant and poisonous lizard will now help control diabetes. Compounds in the saliva of the endangered and carnivorous Gila Monster, which spends up to four months digesting its food, have been copied to develop a ground-breaking injection to treat type 2 diabetes.
The drug, which helps the body produce the right amount of insulin at the right time, was recently approved by India's drug controller general to help diabetics regulate blood sugar levels after a meal. It will be launched in the country on October 6.
Gila Monsters, native of North America and Mexico, have a hormone called Exendin-4 in their salivary glands, which increases the production of insulin when blood sugar levels rise after a large meal. Scientists found that Exendin-4 was similar to a hormone in the human digestive tract called GLP-1 and lasted much longer. The drug is a synthetic replica of Exendin-4.
According to Dr Anoop Misra, director of the department of diabetes and metabolism, Fortis Hospitals, the drug is not a first line treatment for type 2 diabetes but has to be used along with known drugs like Metformin and Sulfonylurea. Interestingly, the new drug, which makes the patient feel less hungry and therefore eat less, helps reduce body weight as against the commonly used drugs like Sulfonylurea and insulin that cause weight gain.
He said: "The new drug acts through GLP 1, a human hormone with multiple actions. It acts on the pancreas to increase insulin production and works on the intestine to decrease its movements, thereby decreasing glucose absorption and causing a decrease in apetite."
Absolving fears of drug abuse, especially by obese people trying to lose weight, Misra said the new drug, which improves blood sugar control by mimicking the action of the hormone incretin, delays the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine. As a result, people taking the drug feel full faster and longer, so they eat less.