How the Gila Monster Helped Fight Obesity


The gila monster, a cuddly lizard known for its venom, has made an unexpected contribution to the fight against obesity through the development of the drug Ozempic. This drug, originally developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, also has a significant effect on weight loss. The discovery of the potential of the gila monster venom for medical purposes is due to the American endocrinologist John Eng. In the 1980s, Eng studied the effects of animal venom on the pancreas and discovered that the gila monster venom contains a protein very similar to the human hormone GLP-1. This hormone plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels by signaling the pancreas to produce insulin.

However, 1GLP-1 by itself is not a practical drug because it is quickly broken down in the body. The protein from the gila monster venom offered a solution because it fulfills the same function as GLP-1, but remains active over a longer period of time. This led to the development of drugs such as Byetta and later Ozempic, which not only regulate blood sugar levels but also reduce hunger and delay gastric emptying. These effects contribute to weight loss

Ozempic, with semaglutide as the active ingredient, was launched by Novo Nordisk in 2017. The drug requires only one injection per week and has proven effective in promoting weight loss in addition to treating type 2 diabetes. The success of Ozempic has led to the development of Wegovy, a drug with the same active substance specifically aimed at treating obesity .

The contribution of the gila monster to the development of these drugs underlines the potential of natural toxins in the development of new therapeutic agents. The story of the Gila Monster and Ozempic illustrates how a seemingly unrelated natural phenomenon can lead to important breakthroughs in medical science, especially in the fight against obesity and diabetes.

The article is in Dutch

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