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Find out the latest news about JDRF's research and fundraising events.

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Behind the headlines: regional variations in lower limb amputation

Some news outlets have today carried news about regional variations in foot amputations for people with diabetes.

This story is based on the publication of a research article in the journal Diabetologia, which provides detailed examination of the incidence of amputations in hospital records for all Primary Care Trusts in England. This builds on information published in the UK Atlas of Variation in Health Care in 2010, which drew attention to this regional variation.

The analysis conducted in this study has shown that the PCTs where there is a high incidence of foot amputation in people with diabetes also have a high incidence of foot amputation in people who do not have diabetes.

The authors suggest that some of the variation in these figures for amputation may be attributable to variations in the way foot care for people with diabetes is organised in different PCTs. The study’s authors highlight a number of initiatives which emphasise the need for multidisciplinary teams skilled in footcare, such as existing NICE guidelines and the Putting Feet First report published by NHS Diabetes and Diabetes UK.

Aside from specific variations in the organisation of foot care services, the authors also draw attention to the importance of effective diabetes management in preventing amputations in the first place.

Rachel Connor Head of Research Communication at JDRF commented ‘Whatever the reasons behind these regional variations, any amputation as a result of living with type 1 is one too many. That’s why we’re committed to researching new ways of treating and preventing the nerve damage that leads to problems in foot health.’

In 2011 JDRF funded £12.7 million worth of global research to treat and prevent the complications of type 1 diabetes. Find out how you can get involved


Behind the headlines: An end to jabs?

In the letters pages of yesterday's Mirror newspaper, you may have seen a letter to Dr Miriam asking about a vaccine that can cure type 1.

Dr Miriam gave a great response explaining that although there is a vaccine in the early stages of clinical trials, a lot more trials need to be done to prove that it works before it can be made available to people with type 1.

In the trial Dr Miriam talked about, JDRF-funded researchers are trying to determine if a fragment of molecule from insulin producing beta cells called ‘proinsulin peptide’ could be used to retrain the immune system not to attack beta cells.

So far, the research team have conducted a small safety trial in people with type 1 diabetes to make sure the treatment is safe for use in humans. This trial showed that the treatment was safe and there were also signs that it may help stop the immune system attacking beta cells. If future trials show that it works well, this treatment may be able to prevent type 1 from progressing in people who have recently been diagnosed with the condition.

Professor Mark Peakman, who is leading the trial, said ‘We are very excited about the proinsulin peptide. Results from our first trials showed that the therapy was safe and we also saw promising signs that it may be effective in turning off the immune response that attacks beta cells. We are now recruiting for a larger study to test if the vaccine does turn the immune response in people with type 1 diabetes’.

If you are interested in finding out more about taking part in these, and other clinical trials, read more about current clinical trials.


Behind the headlines: diabetes increases the risk of birth defects

You may have read in yesterday’s newspapers reports that children of women who have diabetes are more likely to be born with a birth defect.

These articles discussed a new study by the researchers at Newcastle University. This study showed that  that seven out of every 100 babies born to women with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes were born with birth defects. These defects occur in about two in every 100 babies born to women who do not have diabetes, so this means women with diabetes 3.8 times more likely to have babies with birth defects.

The researchers looked at the records from 401,000 women who gave birth between 1996 and 2008 to see if birth defects were more common in people with diabetes.

Previous research has highlighted this increased risk for women with diabetes, but has also shown that this risk can be significantly reduced by keeping HbA1c levels low at the time of conception. The current research study provides further evidence of this effect:  fewer babies with birth defects were born to women with lower HbA1c levels.

This research highlights the importance of specialised care for pregnant women with diabetes, as careful glucose control is very important during this time. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that women who are planning to become pregnant should aim for an HbA1c level of 6.1, if this can be safely achieved.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF, said, ‘This study is helpful because it shows that while there are increased risks for women with type 1 diabetes who are planning a family, it is possible to reduce those risks significantly. By working with specialist diabetes teams, and potentially making use of glucose control technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, women with diabetes can minimise any risks to themselves and their developing babies’.


Behind the headlines: diabetes breakthrough raises hope of cure

You may have seen in the Daily Mirror this morning, a report that a new cure for diabetes may be on the way.

The article discussed a new research study which showed that it may be possible to ‘re-educate’ the immune system of people with type 1 diabetes, and halt the destruction of insulin producing beta-cells that causes type 1.

In the study, stem cells from umbilical cord blood were used to retrain cells in the immune system not to attack the pancreas. Immune cells were taken from the patient and grown together with stem cells from donor umbilical cord blood. The patients' own cells were then separated from the stem cells and returned back into their blood. Growing stem cells and immune cells together seems to help stop the immune cells attacking beta-cells when they are put back in the patient. The approach appears to show promise as the first patients tested were able to reduce the amount of insulin they needed after the treated immune cells were returned.

This exciting discovery is new innovative approach to treating diabetes and JDRF is very pleased to have been involved in funding this research.

However, this was a small clinical trial which involved only 15 people and although the results are exciting, it is still early days for this treatment. The main aim of the trial was to test the safety of the treatment in people with type 1. As the trial showed that the treatment is safe, the research team can now run a larger clinical trial to prove if it works.

The way in which the stem cells ‘educate’ the immune system is also still unclear and more research will need to be done to understand this process before the treatment is likely to be accepted in to clinical practice.

You can read the full article here


Behind the headlines: Diabetes rises by 50% in five years fuelled by soaring levels of obesity

This morning The Daily Mail and The Guardian reported that the number of people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has increased by fifty percent in the last five years due to rising levels of obesity in the UK.

Whilst reporting on the growing number of adults being diagnosed with type 2, the article said that more children than ever are being diagnosed with the condition, whereas in the past it was usually only seen in adults. Figures suggest up to 1,400 children now have type 2 diabetes. These figures are cause for serious concern, but it should also be noted that incidence of type 1 diabetes is rising by 4% year on year, and faster in children under the age of five. In fact, there are over 26,000 children in the UK currently living with type 1 diabetes. With such a high number of young people being diagnosed with the condition, we feel its important to recognise the impact type 1 is having on the young population of Britain.

Although there is a government and media focus on the obesity agenda, JDRF is committed to keeping attention on type 1 diabetes, presenting the facts about the autoimmune condition, highlighting that it isn’t caused by lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise as type 2 diabetes can sometimes be.

You may have heard about the Type 1 Parliament event we are planning for April 2012. JDRF is giving 60 adults and children with type 1 the chance to have their say about the issues and challenges they face to MPs and government officials at Westminster. If you’re passionate about making a difference and want to raise awareness of the condition, why not get involved by applying to attend. The competition closes at midnight on Monday 31 October, so be sure to get your entry in before then. You can apply here 


Behind the headlines

You may have seen that the Sunday Express has today reported on a drug called Diapep 277. In the health section, the paper reports that the drug, which is still being developed, could prevent the autoimmune response which attacks the pancreas in people newly diagnosed with type 1.

This is an Interesting area of development, and it is good news that the study has reached phase III trials, but it is important to remember that these are still relatively early days, and it will be some years until the drug may benefit people newly diagnosed with the condition. There are still significant and necessary clinical and regulatory milestones that the drug must reach before it may become available.

We will be following the progress of the trials with interest and will let you know of its progress. For more information about JDRF’s research programme and the projects we fund, visit our research section.


Behind the headlines: Cost of diabetes drugs now 8.4 per cent of annual NHS drugs bill

You may have read news about the rising costs of diabetes drugs in today’s Daily Mail and on BBC News after The NHS Information Centre released a report yesterday.

The report showed that diabetes prescriptions now account for 8.4 per cent of the entire NHS bill for primary care drugs in England.

NHS information Centre reported that a big part of the rise is due to increased use of drugs for type 2 diabetes. The next most commonly issued drugs are the injectable insulins needed to keep people with type 1, and many with type 2, alive.

The percentage increase in the total cost of prescriptions for all diabetes was four times of what was reported between 2005/6 and 2010/11. This has taken the cost of diabetes prescribing to £725 million in 2010/11.

Access to appropriate treatment and technologies is vital to people with type 1 diabetes to keep them alive and to reduce the risk of long term complications. These have both a devastating impact on the person living with the condition, and can be a significant cost to the NHS.

Ultimately, the only way to end the burden of type 1 diabetes for those living with it, their families, and the NHS, is to find the cure. Learn more about JDRF's research programme here.

You can read the full report here 


Behind the headlines: Concern over self-testing kits

Yesterday, the consumer group Which? showed concern that self-testing kits which allow people to diagnosis themselves with a condition, could be doing more harm than good. The article mentioned a boots home-testing kit which encourages people to test themselves for diabetes.

The watchdog asked medical experts to examine six kits testing for early signs of diseases. They came to the conclusion that the tests which are sold in shops or on the internet are potentially a good idea, but that they are often causing people to worry unnecessarily or even to be falsely reassured.

Which? questioned 64 members of the public, Dr Danielle Freedman from the Royal College of Pathologists and GP Dr Paul Singer about a range of tests. These people suggested that the kits were difficult to fully understand, said that the language was confusing and that they felt unsure as to how to react to the results they received from the tests.

The companies that sell the self-test kits advised that the products should only ever be used as well as seeking advice from a doctor or healthcare professional. JDRF strongly recommends that anyone who thinks they are showing symptoms of type 1 diabetes seeks medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional immediately.

JDRF recently recognised that there is a problem with many children receiving a delayed diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in the UK. With 25% of all children with type 1 diabetes going into Diabetic Ketoacidosis before diagnosis, it is vital that more people are aware of the symptoms of type 1. We launched an awareness campaign together with Diabetes UK to make the general public and healthcare professionals more aware of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

If you want to help people recognise the symptoms of type 1 diabetes you can visit our website and order a poster which has the symptoms of type 1 diabetes clearly listed. You can put the poster up anywhere to raise awareness of the symptoms, it doesn’t only belong in the GP surgery. Why not post one up in your local school, on a noticeboard at your work, or even in a shop window.