March 2008 - The paradoxical frog, Pseudis paradoxa, secretes a substance from its skin which protects it from infection. But the molecule, pseudin-2, may have another use for humans. Researchers found that it stimulates the release of insulin, the vital hormone which is deficient in diabetes sufferers.
Scientists made an artificial copy of the peptide, or protein building block, and showed that it could be used to boost insulin production in people with Type 2 diabetes.
They believe it could provide a new diabetes drug treatment, part of a new class of medicines called incretin mimetics which mimic natural substances.
However more work must be carried out before the frog therapy is ready to be tested on human patients.
The work is being carried out by researchers at the University of Ulster and United Arab Emirates University.
Dr Yasser Abdel-Wahab, senior lecturer in biomedical sciences at the University of Ulster, says: "We are at an exciting stage with this research.
"We have tested a more potent synthetic version of the pseudin-2 peptide and have found that it has the potential for development into a compound for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
"Now we need to take this a step further and put our work into practice to try and help people with Type 2 diabetes.
"More research is needed, but there is a growing body of work around natural anti-diabetic drug discovery that, as you can see, is already yielding fascinating results."
Insulin is essential for controlling the way the body fuels itself with sugar.
Normally insulin is produced by cells in the pancreas in the right amounts needed to regulate blood sugar levels.
But in Type 2 diabetes either not enough is produced, or the body becomes resistant to the concentrations that are available.
The Type 2 version of the disease is strongly associated with obesity and usually develops in middle age. Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a less common autoimmune disease that results in the complete destruction of insulin-producing cells.
Currently there are 2.3 million diagnosed diabetes sufferers in the UK,most of whom have Type 2 diabetes. An estimated 750,000 people have Type2 diabetes but do not know it.
The frog research was presented today at the Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference in Glasgow.
Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of the Diabetes UK charity, says: "We welcome this innovative research that could benefit some of the two million people in the UK with Type 2 diabetes.
"Although it can bemanaged with diet and physical activity, Type 2 diabetes is progressive and may require tablets and/or insulin to control it effectively.
"Good diabetes control reduces the risk of complications including blindness, heart disease, kidney problems and amputation so new treatments are vital."
The bright green and pink paradoxical frog, from Trinidad and the Amazon basin, is appropriately named because of its odd habit of shrinking with age.
As a tadpole, it can reach 27 centimetres in length, but adult frogs are only about four centimetres long.
Source: University of Ulster