Platypus milked for venom for the first time

By AG Staff 8 May 2019
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The Australian Reptile Park’s general manager Tim Faulkner has, for the first time, successfully milked a platypus for its venom, which will now be used by researchers to determine whether or not it could have health benefits.

The team at the Australian Reptile Park filmed the process of extracting the venom, which Tim explained, is a lot like milking snakes.

In the footage, Tim can be seen locating the male platupus’s venomous spur, which is located on its hind feet and is used to compete against other males for females.

Because the platypus is reasonably comfortable they were unable to extract a lot of venom, but Tim said it was enough for researchers to work with.

SEE ALSO: Rare photos of a juvenile platypus

Platypus ecologist Josh Griffiths, who has attempted to extract platypus venom over the years with relative unsuccess himself, told Australian Geographic that he was excited about the footage.

“Safely milking platypus’ like this provides samples for scientists to study.

“Platypus venom has not been well studied and may provide new medical breakthroughs.”

Late last year, researchers from the University of Adelaide found that a hormone usually produced in the gut of both humans and animals is also found in the venom of both the platypus and the echidna.

The hormone, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), is produced by all animals to stimulate the release of insulin to lower blood glucose. Typically, it degrades pretty quickly and because of its short life span, it’s not sufficient for maintaining a proper blood sugar balance for people with type-2 diabetes. Medication with a longer-lasting form of the hormone is needed to provide an adequate release of insulin.

However, GLP-1 works a little differently in monotremes. Findings published in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports have revealed that GLP-1 in platypus and echidnas appears to have evolved resistance to the normal degradation seen in humans and other animals. Further research might uncover a way to apply the more stable form of GLP-1 to diabetes treatments.

Seen a platypus around? Make sure you submit your sightings to PlatypusSPOT.