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Creatures of the Deep Provide Insight into Diabetes

A new study in Gene could help explain a rare form of diabetes that causes sufferers to urinate more than three liters every day. Maurice Elphick from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences says that some marine animals, such as sea urchins and acorn worms, produce NG peptides, which help the creatures release their eggs and sperm at the same time. Elphick has also found that NG peptides are made by a gene similar to the mutant gene in humans that causes diabetes insipidus. Tests on patients with this type of diabetes reveal that their symptoms are caused by an inability to produce the hormone vasopressin — which tells the body how much urine to produce — and Elphick says the sea creatures produce NG peptides the same way human brains produce vasopressin. By studying how sea urchins produce NG peptides, Elphick hopes researchers might better understand the faulty human vasopressin gene.

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