Complications

To keep people with type 1 diabetes as healthy as possible we fund research into managing, delaying or, better still, preventing, complications associated with the condition.

These problems associated with living with type 1 include damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves or blood vessels. We know that this damage happens because even with the best possible glucose control achievable today, people with type 1 will still experience more high glucose levels than someone without the condition.

We want to tackle complications at three stages, covering everyone living with type 1 diabetes and addressing their concerns about complications.

Prevention

The best way to deal with complications is to prevent them from developing at all! A number of JDRF-funded studies are looking at whether using existing drugs in addition to insulin can protect against complications

For example, in Scotland, Professor John Petrie is leading an international trial to see if a Metformin, a well-known type 2 diabetes drug, could protect the blood vessels of people with type 1 at high risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Early diagnosis

Some people appear to be at greater risk of developing complications than others. Some people who have lived with type 1 for over 50 years have few signs of any complications at all, while others can develop problems much earlier. The differences between these groups of people can give us important clues as to how to find out who is at greatest risk.

We are providing funding to Professor Helen Colhoun to allow her to search hundreds of blood and urine samples for new molecules that can indicate whether someone is at risk of developing kidney disease as a result of their type 1. Also known as ‘biomarkers’, this sort of molecule can be easily tested for in a laboratory, giving people with type 1 and their doctors vital early warning of potential problems, so that treatment can begin before lasting damage is done.

Treatment

There are few treatments that have been developed specifically for treating the complications of diabetes – many of the drugs doctors use to treat complications today were originally designed to treat other problems. So we are supporting innovative work to develop new treatments and test the them specifically with people with diabetes.

Our research into complications could help treat people with diabetic macular oedema
Our research into complications could help treat people with diabetic macular oedema

We are supporting KalVista, a small pharmaceutical company based in Southampton that is developing drugs to treat diabetic eye disease. The specific condition they are aiming to treat is ‘diabetic macular oedema’. The drug we are developing in partnership with KalVista targets a protein called ‘kallikrein’ which is found in higher than normal levels in the eyes of people who suffer from diabetic macular oedema. Research tells us that stopping kallikrein building up in the eye could help prevent damage to the retina from occurring, so the company have developed a drug that can do exactly this.

The drug entered the first phase of clinical testing in early summer 2014.