Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK Director of Research: At the moment there isn’t a simple cure for
diabetes. And that’s why Diabetes UK is currently spending £6 million every year to support
research that could help to improve the lives of people with diabetes, and to reduce the
impact of the condition and its complications. From listening to people with different types of diabetes and studying the scientific evidence, we know that a cure for diabetes could mean very different things to people affected by the different forms of diabetes. Each of the projects that we fund adds another piece to the puzzle of diabetes and it brings us one step closer to a future without diabetes and its complications. Right now, we’re supporting projects all over the UK that are looking for solutions to many of these problems – addressing all the forms of diabetes and diabetes-related complications. For example, researchers in Cambridge are
working hard to develop an artificial pancreas that could potentially transform the lives
of of people with Type 1 diabetes, especially those who find it difficult to control their
blood glucose. The aim of the artifical pancreas is to make an intelligent link between a continuous blood glucose monitor and an insulin pump – so that insulin levels can be adjusted automatically in response to minute by minute changes in blood glucose. By levelling out the biggest peaks and troughs of blood glucose the artificial pancreas could help people with Type 1 to
minimise the risk of complications and to avoid distressing hypos. For Type 2 diabetes, we’re supporting research to explore the complex genetic and molecular mechanisms that cause diabetes and to find new and better ways of targeting them with medications, diets and exercise. This research could help us to identify new drugs and shed light on the impact of existing drugs, fitness regimes, diets, dietary supplements – giving us new tools to help people fight Type 2. In 2011, Diabetes UK supported a small study showing that a very low calorie diet could help put Type 2 diabetes into remission. To
build on this success, our researchers are currently developing ideas for larger projects to find out if a low calorie diet might be able to reverse Type 2 for at least two years. This research would help extend our knowledge of such diets, how they could be used safely and how they could be maintained in the long term. Diabetes UK has also formed a partnership
with Tesco to support research into the possibility of a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes. If this
work is successful, we might be able to modify the immune system of people who have the early
signs of Type 1 and stop it from attacking the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
Although this work could take many years to complete, it offers hope that one day we could prevent diabetes from developing in those who are at risk. It’s also likely that the
knowledge gained from this research will be an essential component of future plans to
develop a cure for those who have had Type 1 diabetes for many years.