How diabetes clinical trials work
It’s surprising how hard it is to remember life before coronavirus - and when we stop to do so, the last thing we want to think about is yet another health crisis, but here we are. Before the pandemic sent everyone into lockdown, the Western world was already battling what health experts then claimed to be “the greatest health crisis” facing society today. The silent pandemic, diabetes, claims the lives of more than 500 people in the UK every week. With Type 2 patients 2.5 x more likely to experience heart failure and nearly 2.5 x more likely to have a heart attack and/or stroke than your average Joe, it’s clear that more needs to be done to spread awareness and increase prevention.
Today, we shine a light on the latest diabetes clinical trials and let you know how you can get involved from the comfort of your own home. Check out our breakdown below.
What's the buzz?
According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 5 key areas of diabetes research funded by the organisation today; all with their own unique clinical protocol and approaches. Much has changed from the early studies of the pancreas over 100 years ago, with research sites now focusing their clinical research in a range of areas such as proteins, genetics and cell mutation. Here’s a brief overview of the latest clinical studies in each of the 5 areas.
Right now, doctors can accurately predict a high risk of type 1 diabetes (T1D) by the means of a few short genetics and blood tests; what is not available yet is a method of prevention. Kenneth Brayman, MD, PhD, of the University of Virginia is currently studying a factor he identifies as IgM that’s been shown to cause immune cell dysfunction in people with T1D. What appears to happen next is that this triggers a defense mechanism in the body in which it counter-productively attacks its insulin-producing cells.
Dr Brayman’s clinical research is looking to start phase 1 clinical trials asap, with initial research finding that IgM transplants from healthy human donors prevented T1D progression in mice. If successful, Brayman’s factor could offer people at high risk a direct method of avoiding a potentially life-long and life-threatening condition.
Over at the University of California, Qizhi Tang, PHD, has recently published the findings of her study into the transplantation of insulin-producing cells. The clinical research looks to spare T1D patients from daily finger-pricks and insulin injections that have become part of everyday life for those with the condition. Much like Dr Brayman’s work, Dr Tang is currently experimenting with the possibility of a surgical procedure that would give patients independence from their condition.
Overall, successfully converting stem cells into insulin-producing cells could give researchers the possibility of a limitless supply of cells to transplant. With this approach, it may become possible for all people with T1D to eliminate the need to administer insulin.
While there is still no known cure, many studies into type 2 diabetes (T2D) prove that it can be reversed through dietary and lifestyle changes. This is because, in most cases, T2D is developed by people due to various environmental and socioeconomic factors. In 2018, Cholsoon Jang, PhD, of Princeton University explored the link between soda and the disease; finding that fructose, a key element of the drink, when consumed in high dosages overwhelms the normal intestinal disposal route and enters the bloodstream, ultimately causing toxicity in the liver and increasing risk for T2D. The study ultimately highlights the core link between excess in diet and the disease.
The condition that precedes type 2 and affects as many as 1 in 3 Americans is seeing producing promising findings in gene and hormone research. At the University of Utah, researchers have identified humans with genetic variants which leave them susceptible to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents insulin from promoting glucose uptake into cells. Today, Dr. Scott Summers and his team are working to determine how changes in diet prevent or exacerbate development of insulin resistance.
Over the last few decades, obesity rates in the West have continued to rise; with the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes rising with it. To reduce the burden of diabetes, research efforts focused on the biology of weight regulation and new approaches to support people losing weight and sustain weight-loss are vital. Juli Bai, PhD, at the University of Texas has identified a gene which influences the amount of energy that is expended by the body, which may be the key to lowering the risk of obesity and diabetes in patients. In this project, Dr. Bai is working to further investigate this gene and to determine if it might be a therapeutic target to help people lose weight.
Occuring during pregnancy and typically resolved after the baby’s birth, gestational diabetes affects as many as 1 in 10 pregnant women and increases the risk of development of type 2 in both the mother and the child. Dr Erika F.Werner’s project at the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island will determine how we can change postpartum care to better identify women with prediabetes and then intervene to reduce their diabetes risk. Three hundred women with GD will receive routine care to compare the women who return for postpartum glucose testing to those who do not return. Dr. Werner will also compare individual characteristics, barriers to care and attitudes toward healthcare among the two groups.
Interested in getting involved in diabetes clinical trials? Take a look at the options below for a few ideas on how you can make a difference to this area of clinical research.
Mindmate, the #1 health app, is the perfect everyday solution for monitoring your health and keeping up-to-date on the latest clinical studies in your local area. With free access to a wealth of brain-training games, easy-to-make recipes and step-by-step workout regimes, Mindmate is your new digital health diary and planner. Not only this, the app gives you access to virtual clinical trials and online questionnaires in one tap; allowing you to play your part in the crucial clinical research happening across the globe from the comfort of your own home.
For research sites / CROs / independent researchers:
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