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Technological advances – the future of managing diabetes?


    Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the UK and those suffering from it often have to implement a strict ongoing regime to manage their condition. This blog takes a look at research currently being conducted in China that could be the start of a revolution in the way diabetes is treated.

    By David Stafford

Diabetes and its management

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the United Kingdom, affecting an estimated 4.5 million people according to a report prepared by Diabetes UK in October 2016. This report noted that around 700 people a day are diagnosed with diabetes, which is an equivalent of 1 person every 2 minutes. In addition to this it is estimated that there are around 1.1 million people in the UK who have diabetes but have not been diagnosed.

It is clearly a condition that affects a large proportion of the population and management of the condition depends upon which type of diabetes an individual suffers from. Type 1 Diabetics will need to control their condition with insulin, whereas Type 2 Diabetics may either be able to manage their condition with diet and exercise initially or with medication to help manage their blood sugar levels. Regardless of the way in which an individual manages their diabetes it is something that does not go away and sufferers will have an ongoing responsibility to manage their condition.

Whilst these standard treatments have been adopted for some time now, technological developments in this area may mean that it will be easier to manage the condition in future.

A new technological development on the horizon?

So what does the future look like in terms of the treatment of diabetes and how can we expect things to change as technology advances?

The BBC Health News website has recently published an article delving in to some research being performed at East China Normal University in Shanghai. The research involved trials on mice using genetic engineering and a smartphone ‘app’ to try and control the management of diabetes at a cellular level.

It sounds like something out of science fiction but the technology being trialled is known as optogenetics, something described as being a fusion of biology and technology. It is an idea that is still very much in the early stages but it seems this may well be a glimpse at the future of medicine in this area.

The trial has involved researchers genetically engineering the mouse’s cells to manufacture drugs that control blood sugar levels, such as insulin, and programming them to activate when exposed to specific wavelengths of red light. A set of wirelessly powered LED lights is then attached to the mouse’s back, operated by a specially developed smartphone application that activates the LED lights at the tap of a touchscreen, in turn releasing the drugs to regulate the mouse’s blood sugar levels accordingly. At present the scientists need to take a small amount of blood from the mouse prior to administering the drugs so they can calculate the level of medication needed, but the end goal is to develop a fully automated system that detects the blood sugar levels and administers the correct amount of medication without the need for human intervention.

It is of course a long way away from being a safe and reliable system that can be administered to humans on a widespread basis. However, whilst the scheme is only at the early stages at the moment the future certainly seems to be bright for using technology to improve the ease and efficiency of managing diabetes.

The important role of medical practitioners

This is certainly an exciting piece of research and will no doubt offer a glimmer of hope to those that suffer from diabetes. However, technological developments such as implementing an automated system of treatment will not diminish the roles of General Practitioners and specialist hospital staff in terms of their crucial role in both diagnosing the condition at its outset and deciding on the correct course of treatment for each individual patient.

Unfortunately a common instance of medical negligence is the failure to adequately diagnose and manage the symptoms of diabetes of diabetes, which can often lead to a wide array of vascular problems. Regardless of whether you are Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic if you begin to experience any symptoms out of the ordinary it is always important that you arrange an appointment with the doctor responsible for your care to investigate these as early detection of such problems is important to increase your chances of successful treatment.

If you have any questions about issues you have experienced with the management of your diabetes by your medical professional please contact a member our specialist team here, who will be happy to answer any queries you have.

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