Prevention and possible treatments for diabetes
Sarawak Tribune - Tuesday, 7 January, 2003
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Research is ongoing to determine how diabetes might be prevented from developing in the first place. It is very clear that being overweight and inactive increases the chances of someone developing diabetes, and this is why `lifestyle diabetes prevention strategies' are being encouraged.

Gene therapy may offer the opportunity to prevent diabetes in susceptible individuals, but this is likely to be some time in the future.

Most people with diabetes would like to avoid having to give themselves injections if possible.

An automatic insulin pump is' already available, which means that fewer injections are needed. The needle is sited under the skin, and in current models only needs to be changed every few days. It is connected to a small electrical pump that attaches to a belt or waistband and is approximately the size of a pager. When insulin is needed, the user presses a button and insulin is delivered through the needle.

In the future microchip technology will probably enable automatic blood glucose level readings to be taken, and the amount of insulin needed to be automatically delivered through a single device. Other ideas in the pipeline include painless ultrasonic injections, and the possibility that insulin may be able to be given through an inhaler device rather than injected.

Pancreatic cell transplantation, where insulin-making cells from someone without diabetes are transplanted into someone with diabetes, are already showing good results in scientific studies.

The transplanted cells are extracted from the bodies of donors and kept alive and purified, before being injected into the person with diabetes through a main vein connected to the liver. These cells are then carried in the bloodstream and 'nested' in the liver. Despite not being in the patient's pancreas they still manage to produce insulin.

When testing blood glucose levels it's the pinprick into the tip of the finger that tends to be more painful, rather than the insulin injection.

A wrist-watch monitor has recently been developed, which avoids painful pin-prick monitoring. It's worn on the wrist and sits on top of a disposable gel disc that contains the same enzyme used to monitor glucose levels in home monitors. Instead of testing blood directly, it draws glucose into the disc using a tiny electric current that flows between two terminals beneath the watch. Charged molecules move towards the electrodes as the current passes through the skin, dragging glucose molecules along with them.

In the future a microchip monitor implanted under skin may provide easy, and painless, blood glucose measurements.