Medicine regulates blood sugar levels

Edit Hook

"BYETTA is an injectable prescription medicine that may improve blood sugar (glucose) control in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus, when used with a diet and exercise program." (from product website)Injection of synthetic versions of a hormone called exendin-4 (a.k.a. exenatide) found in Gila monsters causes a prolonged increase in glucose-dependent insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells and lowers glucagon secretion. These effects make it a successful treatment for combatting the insulin resistance characteristic that is consistent with type II diabetes mellitus. Byetta® and the new Bydureon® (a version of medication that is effective up to one week) injections effectively mimic the insulin regulatory activity of GLP-1 and resist degradation enough to be a useful pharmaceutical. For individuals who suffer from type II diabetes that cannot be controlled with oral medication, these biomimetic drugs are vital.

Key Differentiators

Commercially, exenatide is produced by step-wise chemical synthesis. Since it is a peptide, future production methods will probably be biochemical in nature.Exendin-4 (trade name Byetta®) is similar in structure to GLP-1, a hormone that regulates blood glucose and satiety in humans. GLP-1 has been explored as a potential drug for the treatment of diabetes, but has a short half-life and would require multiple daily injections. Exendin-4 lasts for 12 or more hours, making it well-suited for pharmaceutical use.

Biomimicry Story

John Eng, a researcher working for the Solomon A. Berson Research Laboratory, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, New York, was intrigued by reports that people often suffered from an enlarged pancreas after being bitten by venomous animals. He discovered a hormone (exendin-4) in the venomous saliva of the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), which he subsequently synthesized. The Gila monster fasts for long periods in between meals, and likely benefits from the hormone to maintain its blood sugar levels during periods of food scarcity. The hormone mimics the activity of a glucose metabolism and insulin secretion regulator in human beings.

Challenges Solved

There are many different medications for the treatment of type II diabetes. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages for individual patients. Exenatide is an effective drug for managing blood glucose in many cases.

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