Alex-Cole Hamilton: Drive to halt spread of diabetes
Did you know there are more than 4600 people across the Lothian area living with type 1 diabetes and that Scotland has the third-highest incidence of the condition in the world? Quite probably the answer is 'no' and that's why JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charity, was in Edinburgh recently to raise awareness of the condition and to provide an update on the latest in research as part of a series of 'Discovery Days' taking place across Scotland.
The Edinburgh event was hosted at the Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue and provided a great opportunity for people affected by type 1 and those who want to learn more about the condition to meet and chat with families and JDRF staff. The event also featured an insulin pump masterclass to help ensure those with a pump are getting the most from this fantastic piece of technology.
Type 1 diabetes isn’t linked to lifestyle and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent it. It is an autoimmune condition meaning that for reasons not yet fully understood, the immune system, which should protect the body against viruses and bacteria, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing “beta” cells in the pancreas. For those with the condition, which can hit anyone at any age, life’s reality is endless finger prick tests to measure blood glucose levels, carbohydrate counting before each meal and multiple insulin injections just to stay alive.
In the past 30 years JDRF has supported research across the globe to expand our understanding of type 1. The organisation has come a long way and in the past six years, research across the UK has accelerated particularly in Scotland where JDRF has funded projects in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow to the tune of £3.9 million.
The hope for everyone living with type 1, including the parents of the children diagnosed with the condition, is that research is transforming their lives, improving treatments until a cure is found.
Scotland is the envy of the world of type 1 research not only for its wealth of biotech and life science talent, but also because of its unique clinical infrastructure. What’s known as the SCI-DC system is a comprehensive database of those living with type 1 and it provides a unique research-platform. Scotland also has the Diabetes Research Network Type 1 Diabetes bioresource, which holds blood samples of more than 5500 people with information on the patient’s diabetes history.
Against such a backdrop, Scotland has the potential to become a centre of excellence for type 1 research and JDRF is open to new ideas and ready to commit its support to others who want to see the cure for type 1 diabetes as quickly as possible.
There is a momentum and there is hope that Scotland can play a leading role in finding the cure.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western