Cone snails are predatory snails. They capture fish by injecting a venom into the prey that consists of a cocktail of different substances. The single components of the snails' venom, called conopeptides, are already known for their extraordinary pharmacological properties and potential. Scientists recently discovered that one of the cone snails conopeptides could be useful to treat Type 2 diabetes.
Patients with Type 2 diabetes suffer from an excessive sugar level or hyperglycemia. Glucose is a simple sugar and is formed by metabolizing carbohydrates. When it enters the digestive system, the pancreas releases insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating glucose levels. Regulating blood sugar can be difficult with current treatments. Currently diabetes is treated by injecting additional insulin to regulate sugar levels. However, if treated with too much insulin relative to the amount of glucose in the patient's blood, a side effect called hypoglycemia will occur.
What is special about the newly discovered conopeptide from cone snails is that it leads to a temporarily increased release of insulin but only if the blood sugar level is raised. Meaning the side effect, hypoglycemia, does not occur. The findings were recently published in the scientific magazine EMBO Molecular Medicine
This isn't the first medication to come from the cone snail. Ziconotide
was approved by the FDA in 2004 as a prescription pain medication. Making it one of the first medications to contain substances from marine organisms.