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Can frogs spawn a new treatment for Type 2?

Project summary

Novel amphibian skin peptide-analogues for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes

Building on diabetes research focused on short portions of the skin proteins of frogs, Dr Abdel-Wahab and his team will produce synthetic copies of four such portions and test their ability to increase insulin production and reduce blood glucose in mice with Type 2 diabetes.

Background to research

Recently the drug exenatide (a man-made version of a protein found in the saliva of Gila monster lizards) has been developed into a therapy for improving blood glucose control in Type 2 diabetes. This, together with advances in techniques for protein isolation and purification, has motivated a search for other novel proteins that might be useful in diabetes management. Accordingly, researchers at the University of Ulster have established and perfected techniques to test whether protein fragments from amphibians (such as frogs, newts and salamanders) can reduce blood glucose by promoting the release of insulin. Using these techniques they have identified several protein fragments that show promise as novel diabetes therapies.

Research aims

Four of the most promising amphibian protein fragments identified by Dr Abdel-Wahab and his team are found naturally in frogs. Two (known as CPF-AM1 and PGLa-AM1) were found in the Volcano Clawed Frog, while the other two (Tigerinin-1R and Esculentin-2Cha) were found in the Chinese Edible Frog and the Chiricahua Leopard Frog respectively. In this study Dr Wahab and his team will develop synthetic versions of these proteins, study their ability to increase insulin production in mice and evaluate their potential for use as anti-diabetic drugs.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

The researchers hope that they will be able to identify short protein fragments that contribute to insulin-production and could be developed into new therapeutic agents to help improve the management of blood glucose in Type 2 diabetes, and thus reduce the burden of diabetes-related complications. New and more effective drugs would be of enormous benefit to people with diabetes. The researchers’ ultimate aim is to develop their peptides to a point suitable for entry into the pharmaceutical industry pipeline for regulatory testing and clinical development. They envisage that this research could deliver benefits to people living with diabetes within 8 – 10 years.

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