New research presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2023 has revealed that a molecule secreted by frogs could offer a new treatment option for people with Type 2 diabetes. The early-stage research found that a protein secreted by the East Asian bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus) was effective at boosting insulin production as well as improving glucose tolerance in mice. The GLP-1 group of Type 2 diabetes drugs have been based on molecules found in animal venom, and skin secretions from frogs are also known to have insulin-stimulating properties. Previous research funded by Diabetes UK identified a molecule within these secretions called tigerinin-1r that can boost insulin release and suppress glucagon, a hormone that raises blood sugar levels.
In the study, a team at the University of Wolverhampton explored the effects of combining tigerinin-1r with a hormone called GIP, a component of an existing Type 2 diabetes drug, tirzepatide (Mounjaro), which triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas and suppresses appetite. The team found that, when combined, the two molecules increased insulin production by 50% in mice with Type 2 diabetes compared to tigerinin-1r, and by 30% compared to GIP alone. The combination drug was also more effective at improving glucose tolerance – a measure of how well the body moves glucose out of the blood and into cells in mice, than tigerinin-1r or GIP alone.