Fast-acting Insulins from Cone Snails

Faster acting human insulins are needed to improve the efficacy of diabetic insulin pumps. Over the past few years, collaborating teams led by Olivera, Safavi-Hemami, Schlegel, Yandell, and Chou have made the remarkable discovery that fish-hunting cone snails use fast-acting insulins to inactivate their prey by inducing hypoglycemia. Continue reading → Fast-acting Insulins from Cone Snails

Research Statement

Venomous animals have evolved large libraries of bioactive compounds that disrupt the physiology and/or behavior of prey, predators and competitors. The venoms of predatory marine cone snails have been particularly useful because of the high diversity and specificity of peptides that potently target receptors, ion channels and transporters in prey. These molecular targets play critical roles in health and disease rendering cone snail venoms ideal sources for the discovery of pharmacological tools and therapeutics for a wide range of conditions, including pain, epilepsy, stroke and autoimmune disease.

Our research centers on applying novel computational and experimental tools for the discovery of toxins with therapeutic potential. We are particularly interested in small peptide toxins that mimic endogenous receptor ligands in prey, including toxins implicated in regulating glucose homeostasis (e.g., insulin) and pain (e.g., neurotensin-like peptides).

Helena Safavi-Hemami Lab