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Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2016; 205 (7): 289. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.n0310
Published online: 3 October 2016

Snail venom key to better diabetes treatment

An international team of researchers led by scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Flinders University, the University of Melbourne and Monash University has found that venom from certain fish-hunting cone snails could hold the key to developing “ultra-fast-acting” insulins, leading to more efficient therapies for diabetes management. “One such insulin, Conus geographus G1 (Con-Ins G1), is the smallest known insulin found in nature and lacks the C-terminal segment of the B chain that, in human insulin, mediates engagement of the insulin receptor … We found that Con-Ins G1 … strongly binds the human insulin receptor and activates receptor signaling. Con-Ins G1 thus is a naturally occurring mimetic of human insulin … These structural findings provide a platform for the design of a novel class of therapeutic human insulin analogs that are intrinsically monomeric and rapid acting.” The study was published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology on 13 September.

Sugar industry sponsored anti-fat research

A report published online by JAMA Internal Medicine examined the sugar industry’s role in coronary heart disease research and suggested the industry sponsored research in the 1960s and 1970s designed to influence the scientific debate to cast doubt on the hazards of sugar and to promote dietary fat as the culprit in heart disease. Researchers from the University of California used archival documents from the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), which later evolved into the Sugar Association, historical reports and other material to create a chronological case study. The SRF initiated coronary heart disease research in 1965 and its first project was a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967. The review focused on fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of coronary heart disease and downplayed sugar consumption as also a risk factor. SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles to be included and received drafts, while the SRF’s funding and role were not disclosed, according to the article. “This historical account of industry efforts demonstrates the importance of having reviews written by people without conflicts of interest and the need for financial disclosure,” the authors wrote, who point out the NEJM has required authors to disclose all conflicts of interest since 1984. There also is no direct evidence that the sugar industry wrote or changed the NEJM review manuscript and evidence that that the industry shaped its conclusions is circumstantial, the authors acknowledged.

  • Cate Swannell



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