CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- New statistics show about 18 million Americans have diabetes, and even with medication, many have trouble controlling it. Now there is a treatment from an unlikely source that could offer a better way to manage the disease.
The Gila monster is a rare lizard with deadly venom in its saliva. That turns out to be a good thing for type 2 diabetics like Bill Caldwell. “It’s wild. Only in America,” he tells Ivanhoe.
Researchers have used the saliva to develop a new drug called exenatide. It’s injected twice a day to help type 2 diabetics keep their blood sugar under control.
“We think that the effect of the drug has something to do with the fact that this animal eats two, maybe three or four times a year,” says diabetologist John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., of UNC Diabetes Care Center in Chapel Hill.
A hormone in the lizard’s saliva slows its metabolism between meals and keeps its blood sugar low when it does eat. It seems to have the same effect on patients with type 2 diabetes.
Caldwell was part of a study using exenatide. He says, “I did find that my numbers came down. I did find that the drug, the medication, could help me.” Like most patients in the studies, he also experienced modest weight loss.
“That’s pretty rare for a diabetes drug. Most diabetes drugs are actually associated with weight gain,” Dr. Buse says. That’s good news since about 80 percent of type 2 diabetics are overweight. Researchers also say exenatide could reduce the need for insulin in type 2 diabetics. “This is a remarkably effective drug,” Dr. Buse says.
And Caldwell doesn’t care where it comes from. He says, “Hey, whatever works, if it’s tree bark or ants, if it works.”
Since Gila monsters are at risk of becoming an endangered species, exenatide is now made synthetically and not from the lizard. Researchers say it will take at least a year before the FDA approves the drug.
Source: Ivanhoe.com: Ivanhoe Newswire.
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