The two main types of diabetes affect four million people in the UK
Diabetes In The UK The Chief Executive of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation explains the effects of diabetes on Britain.
Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common type of diabetes
In the UK over 90 per cent of the four million people with diabetes have type 2.
Type 2 diabetes usually affects those over 40, or 25 in those of South Asian descent. However, it is becoming more common among young people due to lifestyle.
Type 1 diabetes develops when, for reasons we don’t yet fully understand, the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Around 400,000 people in the UK have type 1 – people of all ages who had no way of avoiding the condition.
Type 2 diabetes meanwhile occurs when the body doesn't produce sufficient levels of insulin, or when cells do not react to insulin. Type 2 can be linked to lifestyle factors.
Dealing with diabetes daily
Those living with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and must inject it into their body every day. For the majority this means multiple daily insulin injections – never a pleasant experience, especially for young children living with type 1. Around 10 per cent of people with type 1 now use technology such as an insulin pump, which delivers small amounts of insulin to the body from a device attached to the body, 24 hours a day.
A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is life-changing. While people living with the condition can still do almost anything in life – Theresa May is testament to that having been diagnosed in 2013 – type 1 does require constant management and the daily regimen of blood tests and injections can take a toll.
However, decades of global research into type 1 diabetes has helped develop ways to treat those living with the condition so they can be healthier for longer, with an ultimate aim and commitment to curing type 1.
Translating research projects into accessible treatments takes time, with clinical and human trials often taking years. But in the past five years more progress has been made than in the previous fifty.
Three especially exciting projects are encapsulation, glucose responsive insulin and so-called artificial pancreas development.
Research into diabetes management options
JDRF’s encapsulation research involves implanting insulin-producing cells in the body, wrapped in a protective coating to protect against the immune system attack of type 1 diabetes. These encapsulated islets (insulin-producing cells) would be able to do the same job as healthy islets in the pancreas: detecting changes in glucose levels, and producing insulin on demand.
Glucose responsive insulin research is exploring the possibilities for packaging injectable insulin which only acts in response to increasing glucose levels in the blood, and stops acting when glucose levels drop too low.UK-based early stage research could lay the foundations for a glucose responsive insulin that would be injected once a day, or even a week, and respond to glucose levels just like a healthy pancreas.
An ‘artificial pancreas’ (AP) is a piece of technology that can replicate a healthy pancreas, providing the right amount of insulin to the body, exactly when it’s needed. JDRF is funding AP projects across the world and one device, considered to be the first commercially available artificial pancreas, received approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January.
A UK-based team, led by Dr Roman Hovorka, is developing another artificial pancreas system which would take over managing insulin delivery throughout the day and night, and keep blood glucose levels in check.
With these projects, and more, we will find the cure for type 1 diabetes. It’s just a case of time and continuing to raise funds to support this great research.