New technologies and fundraising are a bright side, says Peter Jones
Did you know that Scotland has the third highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world?
That’s 29,000 adults and children living with a condition that there is no way to avoid.
If you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you have to inject insulin every day simply to stay alive.
A child diagnosed with the condition aged five faces 19,000 insulin injections and 50,000 finger prick blood tests before they turn 18.
For the parents of these children, it can also mean constant worry, sleepless nights, the never ending checking of blood sugars, the constant counting of carbohydrates, the calculation of correction doses, and the pressure of organising family days out around strict eating times. One mother called it an “every-day battle”. A mere sniffle can send her son’s blood sugar soaring as can excitement, stress and even the weather. While a stomach bug which would mean a day on the sofa for any other child could mean a trip to the hospital for her eight-year old.
But for each and every parent with a child with type 1 and for everyone living with the condition there is also hope. Hope because new technology advances such as concentrated insulin, insulin pumps and other treatment devices are making the lives of type 1 diabetics easier to manage.
And hope because research is completing the different pieces of the jigsaw that will ultimately mean a cure.
At JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charity, our mission is to find the cure for the condition and improve the lives of people with type 1 diabetes by supporting the best type 1 diabetes research in the world.
For instance, we are funding teams of scientists as they work to perfect the artificial pancreas – a piece of technology that does the job of a healthy pancreas, proving exactly the right amount of insulin to the body, exactly when it’s need. In advanced human trials, this promises to transform lives affected by type 1 diabetes.
In Scotland, JDRF research which will help clinicians understand why those with type 1 diabetes are often at greater risk of developing complications such as sight loss and kidney damage began at the University of Dundee. Professor Helen Colhoun, who led this study, is now chair in medical informatics and life course epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, where she is continuing vital studies into complications in type 1 diabetes. At the University of Glasgow, Professor of Diabetic Medicine John Petrie is progressing clinical trials on treatments to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
But there is so much more that can be done.
As a nation, we have 19 universities and a wealth of experience in the life science and biotech sectors. Thanks to the Scottish Care Information – Diabetes Collaboration (SCI-DC) initiative, Scotland has a register of people with type 1 which is the envy of those working in diabetes care and research south of the border. Scotland also has the Diabetes Research Network Type 1 Diabetes Bioresource, which holds blood samples of over 5500 people with information on the patient’s diabetes history for future research.
Combined with areas such as stem cell research carried out at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, based at Edinburgh University, Scotland is the ideal place to conduct clinical and public health research.
We have the expertise to accelerate the path towards the discovery of new treatments – and one day the cure – if we can encourage Scotland to lead the global fight against type 1 diabetes.
If they had a voice that is what the 29,000 in Scotland with type 1 would want. As it is, their determination to raise the funds that could lead to this research is nothing short of heroic.
Davy Ballantyne, the father of ten-year-old Roisin, dragged an anvil up Goatfell because he wanted to do something that was a “real struggle, because that is what diabetes is”.
Michelle Clarkson set up a café on the summit of Bennachie hill, in support of her niece Chloe.
Pam Ferrar gave up her job to look after daughter Anna, retrained and is now making wooden gifts, which she sells to raise money for JDRF.
And Eilidh Kane, aged 9, who has to cope with Right Sided Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy alongside her type 1 diabetes, is about to set out on the walk of her life at JDRF’s One Walk on 11 September at Strathclyde Country Park. She will be one of nearly 400 in East Kilbride and another 500 at Drum Castle near Aberdeen who will be taking part in this year’s family fundraiser events.
Our aim is to raise nearly £100,000, but for so many it is walking together for a cure.
• Peter Jones is the chair of the JDRF Scottish Development Group
For more information about the JDRF One Walk, visit: https://jdrf.org.uk/get-involved/fundraise/one-walk/