Diabetes Charity and Research
EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“My 17 year old son has recently been diagnosed with diabetes and now needs to take insulin. I have heard of research to cure diabetes. How far away is this?”

Diabetes that requires insulin from the time of diagnosis is usually type 1 diabetes. This is due to the body’s own immune system destroying the insulin producing cells within the pancreas. The other form of diabetes is more common, occurring in up to 90% of all cases of diabetes. That is known as type 2 diabetes and is usually treated initially with diet and exercise, but also with tablets. Over time type 2 diabetes tends to get worse and so the doses and numbers of tablets often has to increase. Eventually there may come a time when tablets are not enough and the person then has to go onto insulin, that is then known as ‘type 2 diabetes on insulin’.

There is a lot of research going on around the world in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The research has several directions, including, what are the causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes? What role does genetics play in the development of these conditions and how much is due to environment? Why and how do people get complications, and more importantly, how to prevent them but also to treat them once they occur. There are also several new treatments being developed, in the last few weeks two new classes of medication have been launched in the UK for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

You may have heard in the last year or so of new trials looking at pancreas transplants, or, more specifically, transplanting the insulin producing cells into someone with type 1 diabetes. Recently, there were reports of this technique leading to the first person in the UK to be able to come off insulin – albeit only for a few months. The technique is still in the early stages and is being refined in different places around the world. But as with most research at this early stage, it may be several years before it becomes widely available. One of the difficulties is the fact that the technique relies on organ transplantation after someone has died. Trying to grow insulin producing cells in the laboratory is one of the research goals.

In Norfolk there is a specific diabetes charity that raises money for research locally, the Norwich and Norfolk Diabetes Trust. If you want more information, or want to make a donation then please visit the Norfolk Diabetes Trust website.

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