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Diabetes Research Through the Years Back

Since the discovery of insulin in 1921, scientific research has revolutionised the way diabetes is managed, and has helped to save countless lives. Below are some of the most significant diabetes research milestones, many made possible thanks to the supporters of Diabetes UK.

Type 1 Diabetes

  • World's first natural birth using artificial pancreas

    2015

    Body artist Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins from Norfolk is the first mother in the world to have a natural birth after using an artificial pancreas to manage her condition during pregnancy. The technology was being trialled by Dr Helen Murphy and researchers at the University of Cambridge as part of a study funded by Diabetes UK.

  • Diabetes UK launches new five-year plan for research

    2015

    Our new Research Strategy highlights the scale of the problem we are facing, the vital need for new investment, and sets out our ambitious goals for 2015-19.

  • Hypos in Type 1 can be managed more effectively

    2014

    The multi-centre hypoCOMPaSS study led by Newcastle University finds that people with Type 1 diabetes can regain lost awareness of hypos – even after many years of insulin therapy – with support to help them adjust insulin doses to minimise low glucose levels.

  • Artificial pancreas trial improves glucose management

    2014

    Results from a cutting-edge Diabetes UK trial show the benefits of an artificial pancreas for people with Type 1 diabetes after a four-week at-home trial – the first time anywhere in the world it has been used for more than a few days without medical supervision.

  • Large numbers of Insulin producing cells grown from stem cells in lab

    2014

    Dr Doug Melton and a team at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute take a significant step towards a cure for Type 1 diabetes by using human stem cells to grow insulin-producing beta cells in the laboratory. When the new beta cells are transplanted into mice, they produce and release insulin in response to changes in blood glucose – a key indication that they are working effectively. The researchers are able to produce hundreds of millions of the cells in one go, making them a potentially useful resource for transplants on a large scale.

  • New causes of Type 1 diabetes uncovered

    2014

    Professor Lucy Walker and her team at the Royal Free Hospital make an important discovery about the causes of Type 1 diabetes by showing that a particular kind of immune cell triggers the immune attack that leads to the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

  • In February, researchers in Spain use gene therapy to effectively cure Type 1 diabetes in a small number of dogs

    2013

    Professor Fátima Bosch at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona used injections of a harmless virus to deliver two extra genes into skeletal muscle in the hind legs of five beagles with artificially induced diabetes.

    Together they worked to sense and regulate blood glucose levels and to reduce the hyperglycaemia caused by diabetes.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK)

  • Diabetes UK brings together international experts on immunotherapy to discuss the future of a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2013

    The summit meeting is a first step in what is likely to be the single biggest research programme in the charity’s history, as part of its national partnership with Tesco.

    Building on discussions held at the meeting, the charity aims to develop a research call inviting leading scientists and clinicians to apply for grants to support work that could help realise hopes for a Type 1 vaccine within the next 20 years.

  • Insulin ‘still produced’ in most people with Type 1 diabetes

    2013

    Dr Richard Oram, a Diabetes UK Clinical Training Fellow at the University of Exeter proves that most people with Type 1 diabetes, even those who have had the condition for many years, still make tiny amounts of insulin in response to changes in blood glucose. This finding challenges the widely accepted view that all insulin-producing cells are destroyed within a few years of developing the condition. This finding could help us to answer key questions about the biology of Type 1 diabetes and suggests that it might be possible to regenerate these cells in the future, as we work towards a cure for the condition.

  • In February, research reveals the exact risk of birth defects in pregnant women with diabetes and the importance of pregnancy planning

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2012

    Researchers funded by Diabetes UK and led by Dr Ruth Bell at Newcastle University shows that women with diabetes are almost four times more likely to have a baby with a birth defect than women without diabetes, but that the risk is closely linked to a mother’s blood glucose level.

    The study, which considered over 400,000 pregnancies in the north of England (including over 1,600 to women with diabetes), suggests that as many as one in 13 deliveries to women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes involve a major congenital anomaly. However, blood glucose levels at the time of conception were the most important factor predicting this risk.

    Diabetes UK calls for the NHS to provide better care for women with diabetes who are planning to have a baby. The charity also urges women with diabetes to plan ahead carefully before becoming pregnant, either by using contraception or by seeking help from their diabetes or preconception clinic to closely monitor and control their condition and ensure the best possible outcomes for their baby.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • Results from two Diabetes UK-funded projects reveal the benefits of a prototype 'artificial pancreas' or 'closed-loop' insulin delivery system for adults with Type 1 diabetes.

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2011

    The artificial pancreas is a system that measures blood glucose levels on a minute-to-minute basis using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and transmits this information to an insulin pump that calculates and releases the required amount of insulin into the body.

    This system, which is worn like an insulin pump, has been termed ‘the artificial pancreas’ because it monitors and adjusts insulin levels just as the pancreas does in people without diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • In September, Diabetes UK and the Chief Scientist's Office of the Scottish government dedicate over £675,000 to pioneer a new database for diabetes research.

    2010

    The money is used to establish the Scottish Diabetes Research Network, which over three years will collect biological data from up to 10,000 Scots with Type 1 diabetes in seven regions.

    During routine visits to their diabetes clinic, adult patients will be asked to provide blood and urine samples that will be added to the network anonymously, along with the history of their diabetes. This information will then be used to advance research into the genetic causes of the condition and to identify new characteristics of Type 1 and its complications that could be used to monitor how well people with diabetes respond to different treatments.

    Though based in Scotland, this resource is likely to have a huge impact on a number of different Type 1 research projects taking place all over the world.

  • Diabetes UK creates Grants Advisory Panel to give people affected by diabetes a greater say in diabetes research

    2009

    Every year, Diabetes UK receives hundreds of applications from scientists and doctors working in universities and hospitals across the UK. Each one asks for money to cover a researcher’s salary or to pay for equipment and materials needed to carry out diabetes research.

    People with diabetes have helped Diabetes UK to make decisions about the funding of research for many years.

    However, in 2009 the charity made a concerted effort to engage a wider cross-section of people living with diabetes. The aim was to gather a more diverse range of perspectives on applications for research funding and to give them the loudest possible voice.

    To achieve this, the charity created our Grants Advisory Panel (GAP), a group of people affected by diabetes who consider all of the applications we receive and have their say on what should and should not receive our support. GAP consists of people with a lifetime’s experience of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as the parents and carers of people with the condition.

  • In March, Diabetes UK researchers demonstrate ‘proof of principle’ for a new approach to targeting the immune cells that cause Type 1 diabetes

    2009

    In collaboration with researchers from Israel and the US, Professor Susan Wong at the University of Bristol used genetically modified immune cells to attract and kill autoimmune CD8 T cells that are responsible for destroying islet cells in Type 1 diabetes.

    Injecting the modified cells into mice delayed the onset of diabetes and reduced its overall occurence.

    This provides proof that targeting specific CD8 T cells at an early stage of Type 1 can help to prevent it.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in Newcastle’s working age population, thanks to pioneering retinal screening introduced by Diabetes UK researchers in the 1980s

    2009

    With a grant from Diabetes UK Professor Roy Taylor at Newcastle University found that retinopathy was the second most common cause of blindness in Newcastle between 2001 and 2005.

    The charity has supported Newcastle’s screening programme, developed by Prof Taylor and colleagues since 1986. Since 1996 it has been able to screen almost the entire local population of people with diabetes.

    By demonstrating that photographic screening is effective, research in Newcastle has led the way in saving the sight of many people with diabetes and in establishing a national retinopathy screening programme with a network of centres across the UK.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Following the successes of Diabetes UK's Islet Transplant Consortium the UK Government announces that islet transplantation will be made available on the NHS for people with Type 1 diabetes who have lost their hypo-awareness.

    2008

    The Department of Health pledges to invest up to £2.34 million in islet transplant services in the first year, increasing to £7.32 million to meet the predicted annual need in the longer term.

    From start to finish, gathering the evidence to secure this move of funding from Diabetes UK to the NHS took seven years: a brilliant example of how research funding can lead, in a relatively short space of time, to big changes in patient care.

    This achievement will allow those people who have extreme problems with treating their hypoglycaemia to significantly improve their quality of life. Resolving the most serious cases of hypo unawareness could also save the NHS a significant amount of money, as hypoglycaemic attacks cost £15m a year in hospitalisations and ambulances alone.

    By April 2008, six people had undergone islet transplantations, in Oxford, London and Newcastle. This included the UK's first ever 'islet-after-kidney' transplant at King’s College Hospital and the first islet transplantation carried out at a different centre from where the islets were isolated, at Newcastle, using islets from King’s College London.

    By March 2013 95 islet transplants had been performed in 65 people in the UK.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK researchers succesfully convert human embryonic stem cells into pancreatic cells that produce insulin

    2008

    Building on information obtained from previous studies of islet development, researchers at King's College London exposed human embryonic stem cells to a series of external cues similar to those experienced by beta cells in the pancreas of a developing foetus.

    In effect, their research attempted to recreate the development of beta cells outside the pancreas and was able to drive stem cells to develop first into a general 'pancreatic' cell type and then into a hormone-expressing islet cell.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Researchers in France find that insulin can be delivered orally by binding it with a specially formulated chemical mixture

    2007

    By blending insulin with polyester and acrylic-based molecules, the researchers created tiny 'nanoparticles'.

    When these were fed to rats, the researchers found that insulin levels in the blood increased, and blood glucose levels decreased, showing that the insulin was still functional.

    This approach could potentially be the key to ensuring that insulin taken orally is not broken down by enzymes and rendered useless before entering the blood stream.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Researchers successfully reprogramme human skin cells to mimic embryonic stem cells with the potential to become any tissue in the body

    2007

    In late 2007, US and Japanese researchers announced they had developed methods to reprogramme human skin cells to give them stem cell properties, potentially lessening the need for harder-to-come-by embryonic stem cells in medical research.

    Stem cells have the potential to give rise to every cell type found in the body, including the pancreatic islet cells that are destroyed by the immune system in Type 1 diabetes.

    Still, leading stem cell researchers have stressed that further research needs to be conducted to compare the reprogrammed cells with stem cells derived from embryos, which are considered the gold standard in science.

  • Pfizer introduces Exubera, the first insulin product that does not need to be injected, to the UK

    2006

    Availability of the inhaled insulin product on the NHS was reserved for people with a proven needle phobia or people who have severe trouble with injection sites.

    However, the Exubera inhaler, which was the size of a can of tennis balls, was withdrawn in 2007. Not only was the inhaler too large, but getting the dose of insulin right was difficult as well.

    Pen-like injectors seemed like a safer option, with pre-measured doses. Exubera also had a known side effect of reducing lung function and capacity.

  • Using genetic data from the Warren 3 collection, Diabetes UK researchers begin to link specific regions of DNA to the risk of developing diabetes-related kidney disease

    2005

    The Diabetes UK Warren 3 collection was established to help in the search for genes which put people with Type 1 diabetes at risk of kidney disease.

    Established in part with funding from Diabetes UK, Warren 3 was carried out in collaboration with GoKinD (The Genetics of Kidneys in Diabetes), a major international research initiative involving centres in the US, Canada and the UK.

    The collaborative collected DNA samples from 600 people with Type 1 diabetes and kidney disease and when possible, from two close relatives of these individuals.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • King's College Hospital carries out a successful islet cell transplantation in a person with Type 1 diabetes

    2005

    Following the operation, 61-year-old Richard Lane, who previously had problems controlling his diabetes, no longer has severe hypos and impaired hypo awareness, and to begin with does not require any insulin injections to control his diabetes. Funded by Diabetes UK, at the time this is only the third islet cell transplantation to have taken place in the UK. The first two procedures achieved partial success, with both individuals still requiring small doses of insulin. As well as King's College Hospital, six other centres are part of the UK Islet Transplant Consortium (UKITC).

  • Diabetes UK researchers publish results showing that there is a marked difference in the behaviour of immune cells in the blood of people with Type 1 diabetes compared to people without diabetes.

    2004

    The researchers, led by Professor Mark Peakman, noticed that T cells in the samples from people with diabetes were producing large quantities of a chemical called interferon.

    This chemical is known to cause inflammation, and has the effect of revving up the immune system's response to infection.

    In contrast, T cells from people without diabetes produced a chemical that is known to have natural immune-suppressive qualities and seems to help protect the body against attack by its own T cells.

    This research offered exciting insight into the complex molecular interactions that result in the autoimmune attack thought to cause Type 1 diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The results of the Golden Years Project are published and show that people with diabetes who do not develop complications tended to have high levels of protective cholesterol, which they may have inherited.

    2003

    The Golden Years Project began in 1996 with the aim of describing the clinical features of people with long-duration Type 1 diabetes and establishing a collection of DNA from this group.

    The DNA collection was achieved allowing a renewable resource for researchers based on the success of the Diabetes UK Type 1 diabetes Warren Repository.

    Since 1985, Diabetes UK has awarded medals to people with Type 1 diabetes of long duration; the Alan Nabarro medal is given after 50 years of insulin treatment, the RD Lawrence medal after 60 years and the Macleod medal for 70 years.

    The Diabetes UK Golden Years Study investigated a large group of Nabarro Medal winners who had diabetes for over 50 years without developing serious complications to see if they had any characteristics in common.

    The most striking finding of all was these people had high levels of the protective 'high density' form of cholesterol, and this may be an inherited tendency which helps protect them from heart disease.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Using the Diabetes UK Warren 1 collection, researchers link seven regions of the genome to Type 1 diabetes

    2001

    Researchers from the UK and US pooled information from the Diabetes UK Warren 1 collection and the American HBDI (Human Biological Data Interchange) collection, creating a set of samples that was significantly larger than any that had previously been used to search for diabetes genes.

    The results of the study indicated that much of the previous difficulty in mapping Type 1 diabetes susceptibility genes could be resolved by using larger sample sizes, and pointed to the value of international collaborations to assemble and analyse much larger collections for studying the genetic basis of Type 1 diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK Islet Transplant Consortium launched to ensure that islet transplantation would become available in the UK

    2001

    Soon after the success of the Edmonton protocol, Diabetes UK launched a campaign to raise funds for an Islet Transplant Consortium.

    This raised a staggering £250,000 in a matter of months and in January 2001, the Consortium was launched, bringing together nine islet research centres from around the country.

    With the help of its members and supporters, Diabetes UK went on to raise £650,000 between 2001 and 2005, which paid for the UK’s first 15 Edmonton protocol islet transplants in the UK.

    The UK’s first islet transplant under the Edmonton protocol was carried out in July 2002 at King’s College Hospital in London.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Researchers cure mice with diabetes by injecting them with Freund's Complete Adjuvant, a mixture of water, oil and parts of dead bacteria

    2001

    This mixture is thought to over-stimulate T-cells of the immune system that are responsible for attacking the pancreas, making them self-destruct, effectively stopping the attack and allowing the pancreas to regenerate itself.

    These results were verified by three separate research groups in 2006, however Freund's Complete Adjuvant is prohibited for use in humans. Therefore in 2008, Dr Denise Faustman, who carried out the initial research, began a Phase I clinical trial using the BCG vaccine, which is approved for human use and has similar effects.

    In 2012 published findings from the trial indicated that vaccination with BCG is safe in individuals with long-standing Type 1 diabetes, can eliminate the problematic T-cells, and can temporarily restore the ability of the pancreas to produce some insulin.

    The next step, a Phase II trial, is planned to identify the best dose and timing with which to give BCG to patients in order achieve the best results, with enrolment of participants in this study due to begin in 2013.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK researchers begin to develop and test DAFNE (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating), a five-day education programme for people with Type 1 diabetes

    2000

    The initial study, led by Professor Simon Heller, Dr Sue Roberts and Professor Stephanie Amiel, aimed to design and evaluate a programme to teach people with diabetes enough about food values and insulin to give them the confidence to live flexibly, adjusting their insulin dose to match their lifestyle.

    Results from the first trial phase, which were published in October 2002, showed that people attending the course had significantly improved blood glucose control, with their average HbA1c levels reduced by one per cent after six months.

    More recently, in 2007, research by the DAFNE Collaborative showed that the impact of a single DAFNE course on blood glucose control is still felt almost four years after taking the course, and improvements in people's quality of life were well maintained over this time too.

    After funding the initial pilot trial, Diabetes UK successfully campaigned to get the resulting education programme rolled out to primary care trusts across the UK. As of February 2008, 8,494 people with diabetes had taken part in the DAFNE programme and there is at least one DAFNE course being delivered each week in the UK and Ireland. By March 2009, another 329 courses allowed a further 2,632 people to become DAFNE graduates.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Researchers successfully reverse diabetes in adult mice using mouse pancreatic stem cells

    2000

    When the treated stem cells were transplanted into adult mice with diabetes, they evolved into small, insulin-secreting clusters of cells - islets of Langerhans - which produced enough insulin to reverse diabetes in the mice.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Canadian researchers report the success of a new islet transplantation procedure, the ‘Edmonton protocol’

    2000

    The Edmonton Protocol was developed by Dr James Shapiro and Dr Jonathan Lakey as a method of implanting pancreatic islet cells for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, specifically those prone to hypoglycaemic unawareness.

    It was devised by the islet transplantation group at the University of Alberta in the Canadian city of Edmonton.

    The Edmonton group initially carried out transplants in seven people who had Type 1 diabetes and had lost their hypoglycaemia awareness.

    Over one year later, all of the people who received transplants were still producing insulin.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK establishes the South West Newly Diagnosed Diabetes Collection (SWENDIC) to collect blood samples from people newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2000

    This collection was established for researchers to study the immune responses associated with Type 1 diabetes, and provided around 50 fresh blood samples each year to scientists working in this area.

    This scheme provided a significant boost to Professor Mark Peakman's research to produce a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Mark Peakman, Diabetes UK's first ever Senior Clinical Fellow, identifies a number of the targets involved in the immune system's attack on islet cells

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1999

    Armed with this knowledge, and with further funding from Diabetes UK, he set about studying the parts of the immune system involved in this attack.

    In doing so, he discovered a component of the immune system that constitutes a natural form of defence against islet attack.

    Now Professor Peakman has designed a therapy that can induce or bolster these natural defences, and therefore has the properties of a diabetes vaccine.

    In 2006, he and a team from the University of Bristol linked up for the first ever clinical trials of a vaccine approach to treat Type 1 diabetes.

    In 2009 his team completed the first phase of clinical trial in which 48 people with longstanding diabetes and demonstrated that the vaccine is safe.

    The next phase of the study, is testing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in people newly-diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • A Diabetes UK-funded grant identifies a highly accurate computer imaging method for detecting diabetic retinopathy

    1996

    Building on the work of the British Diabetic Association (Diabetes UK) Mobile Retinal Screening Group, Diabetes UK-funded researchers led by Professor Alexander Elliott at the University of Glasgow report that a 'neural network' computer imaging method achieved good accuracy for the detection of retinopathy compared to an ophthalmologist's analysis.

    This work formed a solid foundation that the researchers were able to build on to put in place an automatic retinal screening system in the UK.

    Three years later, in 1999, Diabetes UK-funded researchers led by Mr David Taylor go on to find that digital photography is feasible and an acceptable alternative to Polaroid-based cameras for use in mobile screening. These timely results initiated the use of digital photography and computer analysis in screening, which has been considered best practice ever since.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Diabetes UK Mobile Retinal Screening Group reports on the performance of 12 diabetes eye screening units, showing that screening using a mobile retinal camera is effective, efficient and robust

    1996

    Using information from 64,000 screenings, the Group also found that mobile screening was highly cost effective and that the screening service should be designed to suit the geography and existing diabetes services in each district.

    The screening units were initially funded by a Diabetes UK application for charitable funds to Allied Dunbar.

    Each location was equipped with a retinal camera and screening vehicle, and the screening service was developed to suit local conditions.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK researchers show that awareness of hypoglycaemia can be restored by avoiding hypos

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1994

    Hypoglycaemia without warning is a dangerous complication of diabetes and the fear of hypos can often limit people's use of intensive insulin therapy to reduce their risk of diabetic complications.

    Professor Stephanie Amiel's pioneering work with Professors Edwin Gale and Simon Heller in reversing hypoglycaemia unawareness led to the Diabetes UK 'make 4 the floor' campaign to encourage people with diabetes not to let their blood glucose levels frequently drop lower than 4 mmol/L, as avoiding levels of 3 mmol/l or less was found to help restore hypo awareness.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • After 10 years of clinical study, the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) report is published

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1993

    The report clearly demonstrates that intensive blood glucose control delays the onset and progression of long-term complications in individuals with Type 1 diabetes.

    This important study allocated 1,441 young adults with Type 1 diabetes to either intensive or conventional treatment, and showed beyond doubt that strict control of blood glucose levels delayed the onset of retinopathy by about 60 per cent, and slowed the progression of retinopathy by 20 per cent.

    Intensive control meant keeping HbA1c levels as close as possible to the study's normal value of 6 per cent or less. On the basis of these results, the researchers recommended that people with diabetes should be treated with intensive insulin therapy to keep their blood glucose levels as stable as possible.

    Also, laboratories around the world standardised their HbA1c tests to match the methods used in the DCCT, which meant that HbA1c results from any individual could be interpreted in light of the outcomes of studies like the DCCT.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Diabetes UK Type 1 Diabetes Warren Repository is founded, and by 1996 becomes the largest single genetic collection of Type 1 diabetes families in the world

    1989

    Pioneered by Professors Stephen Bain, Anthony Barnett and John Todd, the collection consists of over 1600 individuals, representing more than 400 families with two or more children with Type 1 diabetes.

    The repository is used by research groups worldwide, from the US and Canada to Australia and Japan, and has been invaluable in genetic studies of Type 1 diabetes.

    Most importantly, it has led to the identification of a number of previously unrecognised genes that are associated with the development of Type 1 diabetes, the first of which were identified in 1994.

  • Diabetes UK-funded researchers develop a method of purifying human islet cells on a large scale after they have been isolated from the pancreas

    1989

    The Leicester-based team, led by Dr Roger James and Dr Stephen Lake, developed the technique using a piece of equipment called an 'COBE 2991 cell separator', and their method relied on the fact that islet cells are less dense than other cells of the pancreas.

    Dr James' equipment grant was the first ever to be awarded by Diabetes UK, and the method that resulted from it went on to be used worldwide and is still the gold standard for islet cell purification.

    With further funding from Diabetes UK, Dr James went on to study the transplantation of human islet cells for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, and in a team led by Professor Sir Peter Bell contributed to the first three 'allo' islet cell transplants in the UK, ie the transplantation of islet cells from one person to another.

    These were carried out between 1991 and 1992, and laid down the foundations of a well equipped and experienced team of scientists and surgeons who have gone on to establish one of the largest and most successful series of islet cell transplants to prevent diabetes in people with severe pancreatitis.

    These 'auto' transplantations use cells from the recipient's own body, and are currently being led by Mr Ashley Dennison at the Leicester General Hospital.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The first digital hand-held glucose meter is launched using sensor technology developed during a Diabetes UK Fellowship

    1987

    In 1982, a five-year Diabetes UK fellowship helped support the career of Professor Anthony Turner. During those five years, Prof Turner and his team at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire took their first steps to becoming one of the top biosensor laboratories in the world. They collaborated with Professor Allen Hill, Professor Tony Cass, and Professor Graham Davis at Oxford University to develop a new kind of biosensor that was simpler, cheaper and performed better than existing devices. This small step forward enabled Prof Turner and his collaborators to launch a pen-sized glucose meter called ExacTech. It was more sensitive, faster and required less blood than anything that had come before, and is the great-grandfather of most meters on the market today.

  • Diabetes UK awards a Clinical Development Grant to Professor Roy Taylor to test the feasibility of using a retinal camera to screen people with diabetes for retinopathy

    1986

    In order to reach enough people to enable the researchers to carry out their study, the eye camera was mounted in a second-hand ambulance which visited diabetes clinics in and around Newcastle upon Tyne.

    This pioneering study, which ran over two years, demonstrated that retinal photography was a more reliable way of screening for retinopathy than using an ophthalmoscope, and that mobile eye screening units were cost-effective and practical.

    This exciting work also led directly to the award of £150,000 from Allied Dunbar's charitable fund to establish 11 further mobile retinal screening vans, providing vital retinal screening services in areas from Hemel Hempstead to Dundee, and Belfast to Norwich.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • With a Diabetes UK Development Grant, researchers from King's College London established the first specialised Diabetic Foot Centre

    1986

    For the first time, this specialised foot clinic allowed for a new, organised approach to treatment, and over three years it achieved a much-improved rate of ulcer healing and reduced the number of people needing to have major amputations.

    The centres, established by clinical researchers Dr Michael Edmonds and Dr Peter Watkins, transformed the lives of people with diabetic foot complications by bringing together the skills of chiropodists, shoe-fitters, nurses, physicians and surgeons to manage the diabetic foot.

    The outcomes showed that specially constructed shoes, intensive chiropody and precise antibiotic treatment were essential aspects of managing the condition.

    In the two years before the clinic was established, there were 11 and 12 major amputations yearly among those attending a general diabetes clinic. Once the foot clinic was established, the rate per year was reduced to seven, seven and five amputations in the following three years.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK begins funding the Oxford Regional Prospective Study of Diabetes (ORPS)

    1985

    The study followed the health of over 500 children with Type 1 diabetes from point of diagnosis.

    Led by Professor David Dunger of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, it showed that 17 per cent of the children had protein in their urine, and this was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease between the ages of 10 and 20.

    The information gathered as part of the ORPS has allowed researchers to define which people are at greater risk of developing kidney disease – meaning that these individuals can be targeted for treatment to prevent this complication from developing.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Bart's-Windsor family study concluded its investigation of genetic, immunological and environmental factors involved in Type 1 diabetes

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1984

    This study was initiated in 1978 by Andrew Cudworth with funding from Diabetes UK and consisted of all families that lived in and around Windsor, East Berkshire, that had a child with Type 1 diabetes and at least one without the condition.

    These 200 families were regularly screened for autoantibodies - proteins of the immune system which launch an attack on the body's own cells - and in particular for antibodies that recognise the insulin-secreting islet cells.

    The results indicated that these islet cell autoantibodies were a good way to predict who would go on to develop Type 1 diabetes: the presence of the autoantibodies in siblings without diabetes raised their risk of developing Type 1 diabetes over 15 years from 47 per cent to 66 per cent.

  • Launch of 'Penject', the first ever insulin pen, after a trial supported by Diabetes UK

    1983

    In 1979, Glasgow researchers Dr John Ireland, Dr Sheila Reith and Dr John Paton began designs for a new device that would simplify the process of drawing up and delivering insulin and help make regular injections as easy, reliable and painless as possible. “What we wanted was something that the diabetic patient could pull out of a pocket and use at the touch of a button as easily as the modern ballpoint pen," said Dr Ireland. With support from the company Hypoguard Ltd, they developed a prototype insulin ‘pen’ that converted a disposable syringe into an accurate insulin delivery system. It could administer a precise dose simply by fitting a filled syringe, rotating a dial to the desired number of units and pressing down on the pen head. Dr Ireland was at first uncertain if people with diabetes would take to the new invention and so he applied for a grant from the British Diabetic Association (BDA) to help him test it out. The grant enabled people with diabetes to try out the prototype in several centres across England. By December 1982, 76 people with diabetes had used the pen and provided feedback that allowed improvements to be made. The finished product (known as Penject) was the fruit of a collaboration between the NHS, the BDA and private enterprise and became available in the summer of 1983. Although it was still somewhat awkward to use, it influenced the Novo company’s design of Novopen, a similar device that won design awards after its launch in 1985 and contributed greatly to the uptake of a basal-bolus regimen of multiple daily injections. Modern insulin pens have since become a reliable and important tool for people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and are now in widespread use the world over.

  • Using genetic engineering, a US biotechnology company creates bacteria which are able to produce synthetic human insulin

    1979

    This technique involved introducing synthetic genes which code for the two 'A' and 'B' parts of the insulin protein into bacteria, which then produced the two parts of the insulin protein separately.

    David Goeddel, who was working for Genentech at the time, was then able to chemically combine these parts to produce insulin that was identical in chemical structure to human insulin.

    In 1982, synthetic 'human' insulin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the first such product, called Humulin, was manufactured by Eli Lilly.

    From this point on, genetic engineering has been widely used to produce variations on the insulin molecule which are clinically more effective than human insulin.

  • Diabetes UK-funded researchers detect antibodies that target islet cells in people with Type 1 diabetes

    1979

    This discovery, made by Professor Gian Franco Bottazzo and colleagues at Middlesex Hospital Medical School, supported the idea that in Type 1 diabetes, a small percentage of the cells of the immune system mistakenly recognise insulin as foreign, and as a result they produce antibodies which cause the destruction of the insulin-secreting ‘islet’ cells of the pancreas.

    This is known as an ‘autoimmune’ attack.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Laser photocoagulation therapy is shown to be effective at slowing and preventing blindness resulting from diabetes

    1978

    The Diabetic Retinopathy Study (DRS) found that photocoagulation treatment, which seals off the leaking blood vessels that cause sight loss in retinopathy, was effective in reducing severe visual loss in people with advanced diabetic retinopathy.

    In the study, one eye of each of the 1,742 participants was randomly assigned to an untreated control group, while the other was randomly assigned to one of two kinds of photocoagulation treatments.

    Due to the success of the treatment, the DRS protocol was changed in 1976 to allow treatment of the untreated control eyes.

    Although the DRS was designed to test the effectiveness of the photocoagulation treatments, the existence of an untreated control eye provided a unique opportunity for understanding the natural course of advanced retinopathy uninfluenced by treatment.

    This study was a true breakthrough in the treatment of eye disease which would have otherwise caused blindness for many people with diabetes.

  • Researchers demonstrate for the first time that people with diabetes can measure their own blood glucose levels at home and use the information to improve their glucose control

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1978

    The results of two studies - carried out at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in London and Nottingham General Hospital - were published in 1978 showing that people with diabetes using blood glucose meters to measure their own blood-glucose concentration showed a significant improvement in blood-glucose control and a reduction in hypoglycaemic episodes.

    Most participants preferred blood-tests to urine tests and in one of the studies, 92% said they would like to buy their own meter "if the price was right".

    Professor Edwin Gale, who worked on the study in Nottingham as Professor Robert Tattersall's research fellow, was funded by a Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Fellowship at the time.

    The results of these experiments revolutionised the management of Type 1 diabetes and, along with the introduction of the HbA1c test in 1976, made possible the North American Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT).

  • Researchers conduct the first tests of continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII), also known as an insulin pump, in people with diabetes

    1978

    Supported by a Diabetes UK group grant, researchers at Guy's Hospital Medical School showed that the insulin pump, which infuses insulin into the body just beneath the skin, was technically feasible, tolerated by people with diabetes and could improve their overall blood glucose control.

    This research, carried out by Professors John Pickup, Harry Keen, John Parsons and Professor Sir George Alberti, opened the way for subsequent technical and clinical developments in CSII technology, leading to the first use of implantable pumps to treat diabetes in 1985.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK buys the first artificial pancreas in the UK to help stabilise blood glucose levels for people with diabetes during childbirth and surgery

    1977

    The machine, which cost £22,000 and was the size of a filing cabinet, was on loan from the US to Professor Sir George Alberti at Southampton University, but out of respect for the value of his work and to ensure his research could continue, Diabetes UK purchased the machine.

    Professor Alberti, whose work on the machine earned him the nickname 'Professor Pancreas', went on to publish extensively on the use and refinement of the artificial pancreas, and having been knighted in 2000 is now the British Government's National Clinical Director for Emergency Access.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) test is introduced after researchers discover that HbA1c is an indicator of average blood glucose concentration over long periods of time

    1976

    This test made it possible for researchers to carry out large studies looking at the effects of blood glucose control in people with diabetes. One of the first major studies to take advantage of the HbA1c test was the North American Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), which began in the early 1980s.

  • Researchers discover that a specific location on chromosome 6q has a fundamental role in susceptibility to Type 1 diabetes

    1975

    Diabetes UK went on to fund researchers at the London Hospital Medical College to investigate the nature of the association between the genes on this area of chromosome 6 and Type 1 diabetes. Later work revealed that this area of DNA, called the HLA locus, is responsible for producing a set of molecules involved in presenting 'foreign' proteins, such as those from bacteria and viruses, to the immune system. When this process becomes faulty, however, the immune system can attack other cells of the body, such as the islet cells of the pancreas, in a process called an autoimmune attack.

  • Researchers develop an effective treatment for the diabetic coma using continuous low-dose infusion of insulin.

    1974

    Prior to this, many different regimens of insulin administration had been used in the management of diabetic coma, also known as extreme diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), but none had been generally accepted. High doses of insulin had previously been used to anticipate insulin 'resistance', which was thought to be a risk in some people with severe DKA. However, this research carried out by Professor Peter Sonksen, Dr Peter Watkins, Professor Sir George Alberti and other Diabetes UK-funded researchers at King's College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital and the University of Oxford found that this was not the case. Low-dose insulin infusion was soon widely accepted as a simple, safe and effective treatment for DKA which is still used today.

  • The world's first human islet cell transplant is performed in the US

    1974

    Dr David Sutherland of the University of Minnesota performs the world's first islet cell transplant, which works for only a short time before the patient's immune system destroys the new cells. In the 1970s, islet cell transplants were conducted with great success in rats, but initial attempts to reproduce the success in humans were disappointing. For many years progress was slow, and few transplant recipients were able to stay insulin-free for more than a few months before the transplanted islet cells failed.

  • Researchers carry out the first successful islet transplant in rats, reversing diabetes

    1972

    All of the control mice with diabetes died within a few weeks, but the mice which had been given transplantation lived for longer and experienced normal blood glucose levels. Dr Paul Lacy and colleagues went on to carry out the same procedure in humans in the 1980s.

  • Researchers successfully isolate the Islets of Langerhans in rats

    1967

    Dr Paul Lacy and his colleagues at Washington University describe a new method – based on an enzyme called collagenase - to isolate the islets of Langerhans. Collagenase was used because of its ability to break down the chemical bonds in collagen - the main component in connective tissue in animals. Dr Lacy's discovery paved the way for further research into how islet cells work, the causes of diabetes, and better methods of isolating and preparing human islet cells for transplantation, which has since been used to successfully treat Type 1 diabetes in humans.

  • Researchers first describe the presence of the protein 'albumin' in the urine, now called 'microalbuminuria', in people with diabetes

    1964

    With funding from Diabetes UK, Professor Harry Keen and colleagues develop a 'radioimmunoassay' which formed the basis of a test which is now used throughout the world to screen for and monitor the course of nephropathy (kidney disease) in diabetes. They went on to demonstrate that it was possible to identify people very early on in the development of kidney damage, who were at very high risk of end-stage kidney disease and premature cardiovascular disease. This work opened the way for screening for early kidney complications and for very early intervention with ACE inhibitors, delaying dialysis for many people with diabetes.

  • Researchers in Cambridge modify a technique for measuring insulin levels, leading to its commercialisation and use worldwide.

    1963

    Led by the late Professor Nick Hales, this work greatly improved upon the technique developed in 1956 by Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson, making it faster and more reliable. The new technique, which relied on radioactively-labelled antibodies that recognise insulin was termed the 'immunoradiometric assay', was rapidly commercialised and became the basis for the first widely used test to measure insulin. Professor Hales' first major scientific paper, describing this new method, was published in the Biochemical Journal in 1963 and was referenced by a staggering 4000 later papers. After this, he went on to publish around 250 original papers in a hugely successful and influential career. Diagnostic tests based on labelled antibodies are now used in countless clinical and research applications.

  • Diabetes UK begins funding Professor Sir Philip Randle, whose research led the world in basic biochemistry and helped to interptet the metabolic basis of Type 2 diabetes.

    1960

    "Professor Randle worked, amongst other things, on the uptake of glucose by muscle tissue and how insulin is secreted from the beta cells. Along with Professor Sir Philip Cohen and Professor Dick Denton, his research has had a huge impact on our understanding of diabetes today. With funding from Diabetes UK throughout the 1960s, his best-known contribution to diabetes research is probably the identification of the 'glucose-fatty acid cycle', which he worked on with his research student at the time, Professor Denton. This innovative hypothesis was first put forward in a paper in The Lancet in 1963, and suggested that, instead of being solely related to carbohydrate metabolism, insulin resistance was also linked to the release of fatty acids from the body's fat tissue. Crucially, the ‘glucose-fatty acid cycle’ also recognised that, given a choice between glucose and fatty acids, muscle uses the fatty acids as its main energy source.

  • In 1959 it was discovered that the beta cells of the pancreas are responsible for producing insulin

    1959

    Dr Paul Lacy of Washington University used antibodies to 'stain' parts of the pancreas under the microscope, revealing where insulin molecules were located and therefore which cells were likely to be producing insulin.

    He was one of the first scientists to identify the different cell types within the islets of Langerhans, and helped us to understand how the beta cells manufacture, store and release insulin in response to glucose.

    He was later awarded Diabetes UK's Banting Award for his work, and gave the Diabetes UK Banting memorial lecture in 1963.

  • The British Diabetic Association (Diabetes UK) launches a Research Appeal to support diabetes research

    1957

    By 1964 the appeal had achieved its initial target of £100,000 and, such was the enthusiasm of the charity's supporters and local branches, that by the end of 1973 the appeal had raised £1 million.

  • Researchers in New York develop the radioimmunological assay (RIA) procedure, which measures insulin with much greater precision than ever before

    1956

    Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson exploited the understanding that insulin would bind to 'anti-insulin' antibodies produced by the immune system, and in 1960 they used their technique to show that people with Type 2 diabetes often produce more insulin than people without diabetes. Their early work on this technique revolutionised many areas of medicine and in 1977 Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work.

  • The first ever 'Banting Memorial Lecture' is given at King's College Hospital in London

    1947

    The lecture is established by the Diabetic Association in memory of Sir Frederick Banting - one of the co-discoverers of insulin.

    Today it is given annually at Diabetes UK Professional Conference by an internationally recognised scientist working in the field of diabetes research.

    The first lecture was given in 1947 by Professor Charles Best, who worked with Banting to discover insulin.

  • Diabetes UK expands support for diabetes research through Lund Research Fellowships

    1947

    Mr H.M. Lund (whose son Richard has diabetes and is a patient of RD Lawrence) donates £7,000 to the British Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK) exclusively for the purpose of diabetes research.

    Since 1935, the charity's funding of research had only been modest. This windfall led to dramatic growth in the number of applications for research funding and led the charity to establish a Research Grants Committee to award longer and larger grants, including Lund Research Fellowships.

  • The outbreak of World War II brings hardships and new challenges

    1939

    During the War the attention of the Diabetic Association (today known as Diabetes UK) was, understandably, focused on problems posed by the limited availability of insulin and the rationing of food.

    In May 1943, standardised labelling and colour-coding of different forms of insulin was introduced and was of special help to refugees with a poor understanding of English.

    Throughout the war the Association provided information on how to cope with food shortages and successfully lobbied the Ministry of Food on behalf of people with diabetes, granting them extended rations.

  • The British Diabetic Association awards its second grant

    1937

    The grant (of just £40) goes to Dr Frank Young at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research and pays for a research assistant for six months. In 1937 Frank Young discovered that an extract from the brain's pituitary gland could induce diabetes in animals, and he later demonstrated that a growth hormone found in the pituitary gland was responsible for this effect. He also went on to show that diabetes was caused by damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Frank Young's experiments in the late 1930s have been described as "some of the classical experiments in endocrinology [the study of hormones]", and he was knighted for his services to biochemistry in 1976.

  • In 1936, Hans Christian Hagedorn in Denmark discovers that adding a small protein called protamine to insulin prolongs its action

    1936

    A decade later in 1946, drug company Novo Nordisk formulated NPH (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn, or 'Isophane') insulin, containing both protamine and zinc.

    Long-acting insulins were welcomed by diabetes specialists and people with diabetes but often produced worse blood glucose control than three or four injections of soluble insulin.

    Lente insulin, made with cow and pig insulin, was later invented in 1952 by Hallas-Moller.

    The Lente series included three preparations, each with different durations of action achieved through varying combinations of insulin and zinc.

    This meant that doctors were able to prescribe dosage regimens that were more suited to the needs of individuals.

  • In 1936, Harold Himsworth of University College Hospital London distinguished between the two main types of diabetes

    1936

    He proposed that some people with diabetes were more sensitive to the glucose-lowering effects of insulin, whereas others were insulin-insensitive, or insulin resistant.

    To test his theory, Himsworth gave people with diabetes glucose and insulin at the same time and then measured how well their bodies moved the glucose from the blood in response to the insulin.

    People who could respond to insulin had more stable blood glucose levels, whereas those who were insensitive to the effects of insulin experienced very high blood glucose levels.

    This was the first major step in understanding the differences between the two conditions that we recognise today as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

  • The British Diabetic Association, now Diabetes UK, awards its first research grant of £50 to Dr Hans Kosterlitz

    1935

    Dr Kosterlitz was working with Nobel Laureate Professor John Macleod in the Physiology Department of the University of Aberdeen.

    Despite an unexpected setback due to the death of Professor Macleod in 1935, Kosterlitz made a major contribution to science in 1939 by revealing a key step in how the liver produces glucose from a sugar called galactose.

    Hans Kosterlitz was able to isolate a modified form of galactose called 'galactose-1-phosphate', which was the first step in its conversion to glucose.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • With help from novelist HG Wells, Dr Robert Daniel Lawrence founded the ‘Diabetic Association’, now known as Diabetes UK

    1934

    In 1934, the Association was the only national organisation of its kind in the world.

    HG Wells was so impressed with the response to an earlier letter in The Times which had asked for money to equip the diabetic clinic at King's College London that he wrote again suggesting the formation of an association of people interested in diabetes:

    "It is proposed to form a Diabetic Association open ultimately to all diabetics, rich or poor, for mutual aid and assistance, and to promote the study, diffusion of knowledge and the proper treatment of diabetes in this country."

  • In 1921, Frederick Banting's research led to the discovery of insulin

    1921

    Working at the University of Toronto, Banting and his graduate student Charles Best were able to make an extract from animal pancreases, and found that it lowered the blood glucose levels of dogs whose pancreases had been removed.

    Banting's team of scientists, who carried out their research in Professor John Macleod's laboratory, then set out to purify insulin to treat people with diabetes.

    The first person to be treated was Leonard Thompson, 14, who was on the verge of death but restored to good health in 1922 after a few months of insulin injections at the Toronto General Hospital.

    In the UK, insulin was first used as part of a research trial in 1922 and became generally available in 1923: the same year that Banting and Macleod were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • New form of obesity and Type 2 diabetes discovered

    2015

    Researchers at Imperial College London led by Professor Alexandra Blakemore draw on genetic information to discover a new inherited form of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which will help people with the condition get the best possible treatment.

  • Diabetes UK launches new five-year plan for research

    2015

    Our new Research Strategy highlights the scale of the problem we are facing, the vital need for new investment, and sets out our ambitious goals for 2015-19.

  • In February, research reveals the exact risk of birth defects in pregnant women with diabetes and the importance of pregnancy planning

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2012

    Researchers funded by Diabetes UK and led by Dr Ruth Bell at Newcastle University shows that women with diabetes are almost four times more likely to have a baby with a birth defect than women without diabetes, but that the risk is closely linked to a mother’s blood glucose level.

    The study, which considered over 400,000 pregnancies in the north of England (including over 1,600 to women with diabetes), suggests that as many as one in 13 deliveries to women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes involve a major congenital anomaly. However, blood glucose levels at the time of conception were the most important factor predicting this risk.

    Diabetes UK calls for the NHS to provide better care for women with diabetes who are planning to have a baby. The charity also urges women with diabetes to plan ahead carefully before becoming pregnant, either by using contraception or by seeking help from their diabetes or preconception clinic to closely monitor and control their condition and ensure the best possible outcomes for their baby.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • In May, Diabetes UK researchers at the University of Edinburgh find that men with low testosterone levels are at greater risk of Type 2 diabetes, regardless of their weight.

    2012

    The investigation, led by Dr Kerry McInnes, is the first to directly show how low testosterone levels in fatty tissue are linked to insulin resistance and can be instrumental in the development of Type 2.

    Studies of mice in which the function of testosterone was impaired (by removing receptors that bind to it) revealed that insulin resistance was more likely to occur.

    The researchers also found that a protein called RBP4 plays a crucial role regulating insulin resistance when testosterone function was impaired. Such findings could ultimately lead to the development of new diabetes treatments that regulate the production of RBP4.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • In September new research reveals the extent to which ethnic differences influence the risk of Type 2 diabetes

    2012

    The Southall and Brent Revisited (SABRE) study, which received initial support from Diabetes UK, shows that roughly half of all South Asian, Black African and African Caribbean people in the UK will develop Type 2 diabetes by the age of 80, compared to only one in five people of European descent.

    The study monitored the health of 4,200 middle-aged Londoners over the course of 20 years and found that higher body fat levels (especially around the waist) are a key risk factor in Type 2. Ultimately these findings underline the need for South Asian, Black African and African Caribbean people to be screened for Type 2 earlier than the general population and to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and making lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of diabetes from an early stage.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • In June Diabetes UK research at Newcastle University discovers that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed using an extremely low-calorie diet alone

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2011

    Professor Roy Taylor and his team carry out an early stage clinical trial involving 11 people with Type 2 diabetes as an alternative to weight-loss surgery.

    All of them reverse their diabetes by drastically cutting their food intake to just 600 calories a day for two months and eating only liquid diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables. Several of them put weight back on after the study has ended but, three months later, seven remain free of diabetes.

    This extreme diet, which would not be suitable for everyone and was carried out under close medical superversion, is certainly not a quick fix for Type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, the suggestion that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed (most probably by reducing fat around the liver and the pancreas) presents a radical change in our understanding of the condition.

    The study prompts Diabetes UK to call for further research proposals in this area to see if similar diets can be used safely within the NHS to bring about the long term reversal of Type 2.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • Diabetes UK creates Grants Advisory Panel to give people affected by diabetes a greater say in diabetes research

    2009

    Every year, Diabetes UK receives hundreds of applications from scientists and doctors working in universities and hospitals across the UK. Each one asks for money to cover a researcher’s salary or to pay for equipment and materials needed to carry out diabetes research.

    People with diabetes have helped Diabetes UK to make decisions about the funding of research for many years.

    However, in 2009 the charity made a concerted effort to engage a wider cross-section of people living with diabetes. The aim was to gather a more diverse range of perspectives on applications for research funding and to give them the loudest possible voice.

    To achieve this, the charity created our Grants Advisory Panel (GAP), a group of people affected by diabetes who consider all of the applications we receive and have their say on what should and should not receive our support. GAP consists of people with a lifetime’s experience of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as the parents and carers of people with the condition.

  • Research supported by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk and Diabetes UK provides new evidence on the best way to use insulin to treat Type 2 diabetes

    2009

    The ‘Treating to Target in Type 2 diabetes’ (4-T) study compared three different insulin treatment regimens over three years in 708 people with Type 2 diabetes who were not achieving their blood glucose targets using metformin and a sulphonylurea.

    Professor Rury Holman of the University of Oxford reported that people who added either a long-acting insulin once a day or a rapid acting insulin three times a day to oral diabetes drugs showed better control than those adding twice daily injections of long- and rapid-acting insulins.

    Those using a single insulin injection each day also had fewer hypoglycaemic episodes and gained less weight.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in Newcastle’s working age population, thanks to pioneering retinal screening introduced by Diabetes UK researchers in the 1980s

    2009

    With a grant from Diabetes UK Professor Roy Taylor at Newcastle University found that retinopathy was the second most common cause of blindness in Newcastle between 2001 and 2005.

    The charity has supported Newcastle’s screening programme, developed by Prof Taylor and colleagues since 1986. Since 1996 it has been able to screen almost the entire local population of people with diabetes.

    By demonstrating that photographic screening is effective, research in Newcastle has led the way in saving the sight of many people with diabetes and in establishing a national retinopathy screening programme with a network of centres across the UK.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Researchers working with the Diabetes UK Warren 2 collection identify a strong link between the FTO gene and Type 2 diabetes

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2007

    It was shown that people with two copies of a particular variation of the FTO gene have a 70 per cent higher risk of being obese than people with no copies. Those with one copy have a 30 per cent increased risk of obesity.

    Because of the effect on Body Mass Index (BMI), carrying two copies of the FTO gene variation increases a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50 per cent and having one copy means the risk of Type 2 diabetes is increased by 25 per cent.

  • Researchers in France find that insulin can be delivered orally by binding it with a specially formulated chemical mixture

    2007

    By blending insulin with polyester and acrylic-based molecules, the researchers created tiny 'nanoparticles'.

    When these were fed to rats, the researchers found that insulin levels in the blood increased, and blood glucose levels decreased, showing that the insulin was still functional.

    This approach could potentially be the key to ensuring that insulin taken orally is not broken down by enzymes and rendered useless before entering the blood stream.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Pfizer introduces Exubera, the first insulin product that does not need to be injected, to the UK

    2006

    Availability of the inhaled insulin product on the NHS was reserved for people with a proven needle phobia or people who have severe trouble with injection sites.

    However, the Exubera inhaler, which was the size of a can of tennis balls, was withdrawn in 2007. Not only was the inhaler too large, but getting the dose of insulin right was difficult as well.

    Pen-like injectors seemed like a safer option, with pre-measured doses. Exubera also had a known side effect of reducing lung function and capacity.

  • The DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed) Collaborative is established

    2003

    The group's members included over 45 individuals around the UK representing over 15 diabetes services and including people with diabetes and patient representatives.

    The Collaborative, which included Diabetes UK and the Department of Health, aimed to develop a structured education programme which, beginning with a module for people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, would develop into a pathway of care for people with diabetes.

    The programme was originally piloted in 17 primary care trusts across England, showing that people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes attending a DESMOND course showed a significant reduction over 12 months in HbA1c levels from 8.48% to 6.7%.

    Diabetes UK then funded a randomised controlled trial to investigate these results further, in which over 1,000 participants took part. The results of this important research were published in February 2008, and showed that DESMOND resulted in greater improvements in weight loss and positive improvements in beliefs about illness but no difference in HbA1c levels up to 12 months after diagnosis.

    Researchers are now continuing to adapt the programme to ensure its suitability and success for people with Type 2 diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Diabetes UK-funded Collaborative Atorvastatin Diabetes Study (CARDS) is stopped two years early due to results that show the strong benefits of statin treatment.

    2003

    CARDS was the first ever clinical trial specifically designed to determine if statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, could reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with Type 2 diabetes.

    The findings were so good that in 2003, it was decided that it would be unethical to continue giving the placebo treatment to some participants, and that everyone would benefit from taking the statin.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes Prevention Program trial results are announced

    2002

    They show that just 30 minutes of moderate activity per day coupled with a 5-10 per cent reduction in weight reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 per cent.

    The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) in the US was a major clinical research trial aimed at discovering whether modest weight loss through changes in diet and increased physical activity or treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin could prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

    As in the earlier Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (FDPS), at the beginning of the DPP participants were all overweight and had blood glucose levels higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study conclusively demonstrates for the first time that changes in lifestyle reduce the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes

    2001

    Lifestyle changes reduce risk by 58 per cent, while treatment with metformin reduces risk by one third.

    This important study demonstrated that sustained changes in lifestyle over four years substantially reduced the development of Type 2 diabetes in adults at high risk of diabetes.

    The lifestyle changes included a low-fat diet, increased physical activity and modest weight loss.

    This study involved more than 500 men and women who were at high risk of diabetes because they had higher-than-normal blood glucose levels that were not yet high enough to count as Type 2 diabetes.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The first UKPDS results are published and scientifically link the control of blood glucose levels and blood pressure to the delay and possible prevention of Type 2 diabetes

    1998

    Spanning the 1980s and 1990s, this landmark study compared the effects of different treatments for Type 2 diabetes, including diet, tablets and insulin, on blood glucose levels and the risk of complications.

    The UKPDS, which was part-funded by Diabetes UK, is the largest ever clinical study of diabetes - more than 5,000 people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes took part - and is recognised throughout the world as a major step forward in understanding the management of Type 2 diabetes.

    (Research part-funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • A Diabetes UK-funded grant identifies a highly accurate computer imaging method for detecting diabetic retinopathy

    1996

    Building on the work of the British Diabetic Association (Diabetes UK) Mobile Retinal Screening Group, Diabetes UK-funded researchers led by Professor Alexander Elliott at the University of Glasgow report that a 'neural network' computer imaging method achieved good accuracy for the detection of retinopathy compared to an ophthalmologist's analysis.

    This work formed a solid foundation that the researchers were able to build on to put in place an automatic retinal screening system in the UK.

    Three years later, in 1999, Diabetes UK-funded researchers led by Mr David Taylor go on to find that digital photography is feasible and an acceptable alternative to Polaroid-based cameras for use in mobile screening. These timely results initiated the use of digital photography and computer analysis in screening, which has been considered best practice ever since.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Diabetes UK Mobile Retinal Screening Group reports on the performance of 12 diabetes eye screening units, showing that screening using a mobile retinal camera is effective, efficient and robust

    1996

    Using information from 64,000 screenings, the Group also found that mobile screening was highly cost effective and that the screening service should be designed to suit the geography and existing diabetes services in each district.

    The screening units were initially funded by a Diabetes UK application for charitable funds to Allied Dunbar.

    Each location was equipped with a retinal camera and screening vehicle, and the screening service was developed to suit local conditions.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Diabetes UK Type 2 diabetes Warren Collection is established, providing an invaluable resource for researchers to investigate the genetic basis of Type 2 diabetes

    1996

    A group of researchers interested in the genetics of Type 2 diabetes formed the Diabetes UK Warren 2 Group in 1992, and through six collecting centres across the UK recruited over 2,000 people from 843 families with one or more siblings with Type 2 diabetes.

    The researchers quickly realised that as they identified ‘susceptibility’ genes for Type 2 diabetes they would need to know how the genes affected normal metabolism in relatives without diabetes.

    They therefore recruited the first degree relatives, ie siblings and children, of the original Warren 2 families, who did not have diabetes, in the knowledge that they would share the same susceptibility genes.

    The Warren 2 Extension Study, as it is known, recruited 811 relatives without diabetes, all of whom underwent detailed metabolic tests.

    The work of the Warren 2 Group clearly illustrated just how prone the relatives of people with Type 2 diabetes are to developing diabetes and emphasised the need to develop focused intervention strategies to try to reduce this high risk.

    The DNA from each of the Warren collections has since been made available to the diabetes research community, and has led to the identification of a number of genes associated with Type 2 diabetes.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK researchers show that awareness of hypoglycaemia can be restored by avoiding hypos

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1994

    Hypoglycaemia without warning is a dangerous complication of diabetes and the fear of hypos can often limit people's use of intensive insulin therapy to reduce their risk of diabetic complications.

    Professor Stephanie Amiel's pioneering work with Professors Edwin Gale and Simon Heller in reversing hypoglycaemia unawareness led to the Diabetes UK 'make 4 the floor' campaign to encourage people with diabetes not to let their blood glucose levels frequently drop lower than 4 mmol/L, as avoiding levels of 3 mmol/l or less was found to help restore hypo awareness.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • US researchers deliver the first proof that the administration of the GLP-1 hormone in people with Type 2 diabetes stimulates insulin secretion and effectively lowers blood glucose levels.

    1993

    Glucagon-like peptide -1 (GLP-1) is a hormone released by the gut after we have eaten, which helps to control blood glucose levels by increasing the production of insulin by the pancreas.

    People with Type 2 diabetes, however, have lower levels of GLP-1, and this effect is reduced or lost altogether.

    In terms of treating Type 2 diabetes, these stabilising effects of GLP-1 are extremely desirable, however GLP-1 is broken down relatively quickly in the blood once it has done its job.

    Exenatide (Byetta) was the first drug based on GLP-1 to go on the market in the UK in 2007.

    Supported by a Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Fellowship, Dr Mark Evans went on to confirm these findings with colleague Professor Stephen Bloom in 1998, and in 2001 they showed that a similar drug lowered blood glucose levels and decreased energy intake in healthy volunteers.

  • Diabetes UK raises over £640,000 to ensure that the first 10 years of the UKPDS can be completed

    1990

    Due to a shortfall in funding, the future of the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) looked uncertain.

    Diabetes UK therefore set up an Appeal Fund with the intention of raising enough money to allow the 10-year intervention phase of the study to be completed.

    This was essential to give researchers the best possible chance of discovering the optimum treatment for reducing people's chances of developing the complications of diabetes, increasing life expectancy and improving their quality of life.

    The appeal received an enormous response from voluntary groups and individuals alike, and by 1992 had raised more than £640,000.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The first digital hand-held glucose meter is launched using sensor technology developed during a Diabetes UK Fellowship

    1987

    In 1982, a five-year Diabetes UK fellowship helped support the career of Professor Anthony Turner. During those five years, Prof Turner and his team at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire took their first steps to becoming one of the top biosensor laboratories in the world. They collaborated with Professor Allen Hill, Professor Tony Cass, and Professor Graham Davis at Oxford University to develop a new kind of biosensor that was simpler, cheaper and performed better than existing devices. This small step forward enabled Prof Turner and his collaborators to launch a pen-sized glucose meter called ExacTech. It was more sensitive, faster and required less blood than anything that had come before, and is the great-grandfather of most meters on the market today.

  • Diabetes UK awards a Clinical Development Grant to Professor Roy Taylor to test the feasibility of using a retinal camera to screen people with diabetes for retinopathy

    1986

    In order to reach enough people to enable the researchers to carry out their study, the eye camera was mounted in a second-hand ambulance which visited diabetes clinics in and around Newcastle upon Tyne.

    This pioneering study, which ran over two years, demonstrated that retinal photography was a more reliable way of screening for retinopathy than using an ophthalmoscope, and that mobile eye screening units were cost-effective and practical.

    This exciting work also led directly to the award of £150,000 from Allied Dunbar's charitable fund to establish 11 further mobile retinal screening vans, providing vital retinal screening services in areas from Hemel Hempstead to Dundee, and Belfast to Norwich.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • With a Diabetes UK Development Grant, researchers from King's College London established the first specialised Diabetic Foot Centre

    1986

    For the first time, this specialised foot clinic allowed for a new, organised approach to treatment, and over three years it achieved a much-improved rate of ulcer healing and reduced the number of people needing to have major amputations.

    The centres, established by clinical researchers Dr Michael Edmonds and Dr Peter Watkins, transformed the lives of people with diabetic foot complications by bringing together the skills of chiropodists, shoe-fitters, nurses, physicians and surgeons to manage the diabetic foot.

    The outcomes showed that specially constructed shoes, intensive chiropody and precise antibiotic treatment were essential aspects of managing the condition.

    In the two years before the clinic was established, there were 11 and 12 major amputations yearly among those attending a general diabetes clinic. Once the foot clinic was established, the rate per year was reduced to seven, seven and five amputations in the following three years.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Launch of 'Penject', the first ever insulin pen, after a trial supported by Diabetes UK

    1983

    In 1979, Glasgow researchers Dr John Ireland, Dr Sheila Reith and Dr John Paton began designs for a new device that would simplify the process of drawing up and delivering insulin and help make regular injections as easy, reliable and painless as possible. “What we wanted was something that the diabetic patient could pull out of a pocket and use at the touch of a button as easily as the modern ballpoint pen," said Dr Ireland. With support from the company Hypoguard Ltd, they developed a prototype insulin ‘pen’ that converted a disposable syringe into an accurate insulin delivery system. It could administer a precise dose simply by fitting a filled syringe, rotating a dial to the desired number of units and pressing down on the pen head. Dr Ireland was at first uncertain if people with diabetes would take to the new invention and so he applied for a grant from the British Diabetic Association (BDA) to help him test it out. The grant enabled people with diabetes to try out the prototype in several centres across England. By December 1982, 76 people with diabetes had used the pen and provided feedback that allowed improvements to be made. The finished product (known as Penject) was the fruit of a collaboration between the NHS, the BDA and private enterprise and became available in the summer of 1983. Although it was still somewhat awkward to use, it influenced the Novo company’s design of Novopen, a similar device that won design awards after its launch in 1985 and contributed greatly to the uptake of a basal-bolus regimen of multiple daily injections. Modern insulin pens have since become a reliable and important tool for people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and are now in widespread use the world over.

  • Using genetic engineering, a US biotechnology company creates bacteria which are able to produce synthetic human insulin

    1979

    This technique involved introducing synthetic genes which code for the two 'A' and 'B' parts of the insulin protein into bacteria, which then produced the two parts of the insulin protein separately.

    David Goeddel, who was working for Genentech at the time, was then able to chemically combine these parts to produce insulin that was identical in chemical structure to human insulin.

    In 1982, synthetic 'human' insulin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the first such product, called Humulin, was manufactured by Eli Lilly.

    From this point on, genetic engineering has been widely used to produce variations on the insulin molecule which are clinically more effective than human insulin.

  • Laser photocoagulation therapy is shown to be effective at slowing and preventing blindness resulting from diabetes

    1978

    The Diabetic Retinopathy Study (DRS) found that photocoagulation treatment, which seals off the leaking blood vessels that cause sight loss in retinopathy, was effective in reducing severe visual loss in people with advanced diabetic retinopathy.

    In the study, one eye of each of the 1,742 participants was randomly assigned to an untreated control group, while the other was randomly assigned to one of two kinds of photocoagulation treatments.

    Due to the success of the treatment, the DRS protocol was changed in 1976 to allow treatment of the untreated control eyes.

    Although the DRS was designed to test the effectiveness of the photocoagulation treatments, the existence of an untreated control eye provided a unique opportunity for understanding the natural course of advanced retinopathy uninfluenced by treatment.

    This study was a true breakthrough in the treatment of eye disease which would have otherwise caused blindness for many people with diabetes.

  • The Diabetes UK-funded UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) begins

    1977

    Coordinated by the late Professor Robert Turner of Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary, the landmark UKPDS began with the aim of discovering the optimum treatment for people with Type 2 diabetes to reduce their chances of developing the complications of diabetes, increasing life expectancy and improving their quality of life. Professor Rury Holman was the Co-Chair of the UKPDS until 1999, when he took over the reigns of the trial after Professor Turner passed away. The need for such a study had been highlighted in 1970 when results from the US-led University Group Diabetes Program (UGDP) suggested that sulphonylurea or insulin therapies may be harmful. Subsequent studies both supported and conflicted with the UGDP findings, and the controversy persisted, confirming the need for the UKPDS.

  • Researchers develop an effective treatment for the diabetic coma using continuous low-dose infusion of insulin.

    1974

    Prior to this, many different regimens of insulin administration had been used in the management of diabetic coma, also known as extreme diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), but none had been generally accepted. High doses of insulin had previously been used to anticipate insulin 'resistance', which was thought to be a risk in some people with severe DKA. However, this research carried out by Professor Peter Sonksen, Dr Peter Watkins, Professor Sir George Alberti and other Diabetes UK-funded researchers at King's College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital and the University of Oxford found that this was not the case. Low-dose insulin infusion was soon widely accepted as a simple, safe and effective treatment for DKA which is still used today.

  • The Belfast Diet Study begins to study the effects of intensive dietary management of Type 2 diabetes.

    1972

    The study measured the effects of diet management on blood glucose control and long-term outcomes, and showed that people continuing on diet management alone for the first 10 years after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes had a small but progressive rise in blood glucose levels. This was associated with a reduced function of their insulin-secreting beta-cells, but not with a change in either obesity or insulin sensitivity. The Belfast Diet Study was a forerunner to the UKPDS, and initiated thoughts on ‘secondary failure‘ to sulphonylureas, i.e. when, despite high doses of sulphonylureas and full compliance with diet and other treatments, people with Type 2 diabetes require insulin to properly control their blood glucose levels.

  • Researchers successfully isolate the Islets of Langerhans in rats

    1967

    Dr Paul Lacy and his colleagues at Washington University describe a new method – based on an enzyme called collagenase - to isolate the islets of Langerhans. Collagenase was used because of its ability to break down the chemical bonds in collagen - the main component in connective tissue in animals. Dr Lacy's discovery paved the way for further research into how islet cells work, the causes of diabetes, and better methods of isolating and preparing human islet cells for transplantation, which has since been used to successfully treat Type 1 diabetes in humans.

  • Researchers first describe the presence of the protein 'albumin' in the urine, now called 'microalbuminuria', in people with diabetes

    1964

    With funding from Diabetes UK, Professor Harry Keen and colleagues develop a 'radioimmunoassay' which formed the basis of a test which is now used throughout the world to screen for and monitor the course of nephropathy (kidney disease) in diabetes. They went on to demonstrate that it was possible to identify people very early on in the development of kidney damage, who were at very high risk of end-stage kidney disease and premature cardiovascular disease. This work opened the way for screening for early kidney complications and for very early intervention with ACE inhibitors, delaying dialysis for many people with diabetes.

  • Researchers in Cambridge modify a technique for measuring insulin levels, leading to its commercialisation and use worldwide.

    1963

    Led by the late Professor Nick Hales, this work greatly improved upon the technique developed in 1956 by Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson, making it faster and more reliable. The new technique, which relied on radioactively-labelled antibodies that recognise insulin was termed the 'immunoradiometric assay', was rapidly commercialised and became the basis for the first widely used test to measure insulin. Professor Hales' first major scientific paper, describing this new method, was published in the Biochemical Journal in 1963 and was referenced by a staggering 4000 later papers. After this, he went on to publish around 250 original papers in a hugely successful and influential career. Diagnostic tests based on labelled antibodies are now used in countless clinical and research applications.

  • The Diabetes UK-funded Bedford Survey begins

    1962

    The study resulted in definitions of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and overt diabetes that are the benchmarks for the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes used today. This landmark ten-year study was carried out by Professor Harry Keen and colleagues of Guy's Hospital Medical School, and surveyed 24,000 people in the town of Bedford - more than 70 per cent of the population - who agreed to give urine samples, which were tested for the presence of glucose. From the results, further tests were carried out on a random sample of 600 to look at the distribution of glucose tolerance. Along with results from the much larger Whitehall Survey, this work helped researchers to show that treatment with an insulin-sensitising drug could delay Type 2 diabetes in people with IGT.

  • Diabetes UK begins funding Professor Sir Philip Randle, whose research led the world in basic biochemistry and helped to interptet the metabolic basis of Type 2 diabetes.

    1960

    "Professor Randle worked, amongst other things, on the uptake of glucose by muscle tissue and how insulin is secreted from the beta cells. Along with Professor Sir Philip Cohen and Professor Dick Denton, his research has had a huge impact on our understanding of diabetes today. With funding from Diabetes UK throughout the 1960s, his best-known contribution to diabetes research is probably the identification of the 'glucose-fatty acid cycle', which he worked on with his research student at the time, Professor Denton. This innovative hypothesis was first put forward in a paper in The Lancet in 1963, and suggested that, instead of being solely related to carbohydrate metabolism, insulin resistance was also linked to the release of fatty acids from the body's fat tissue. Crucially, the ‘glucose-fatty acid cycle’ also recognised that, given a choice between glucose and fatty acids, muscle uses the fatty acids as its main energy source.

  • In 1959 it was discovered that the beta cells of the pancreas are responsible for producing insulin

    1959

    Dr Paul Lacy of Washington University used antibodies to 'stain' parts of the pancreas under the microscope, revealing where insulin molecules were located and therefore which cells were likely to be producing insulin.

    He was one of the first scientists to identify the different cell types within the islets of Langerhans, and helped us to understand how the beta cells manufacture, store and release insulin in response to glucose.

    He was later awarded Diabetes UK's Banting Award for his work, and gave the Diabetes UK Banting memorial lecture in 1963.

  • The British Diabetic Association (Diabetes UK) launches a Research Appeal to support diabetes research

    1957

    By 1964 the appeal had achieved its initial target of £100,000 and, such was the enthusiasm of the charity's supporters and local branches, that by the end of 1973 the appeal had raised £1 million.

  • Researchers in New York develop the radioimmunological assay (RIA) procedure, which measures insulin with much greater precision than ever before

    1956

    Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson exploited the understanding that insulin would bind to 'anti-insulin' antibodies produced by the immune system, and in 1960 they used their technique to show that people with Type 2 diabetes often produce more insulin than people without diabetes. Their early work on this technique revolutionised many areas of medicine and in 1977 Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work.

  • Oral medications, called sulphonylureas, are used for the first time to treat people with Type 2 diabetes

    1955

    Sulphonylureas work by stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin, an approach that was first developed by French chemist Marcel Janbon and colleagues in 1942. They were trying to find an effective treatment for typhoid fever during World War II, and accidentally discovered that a sulphonylurea compound caused hypoglycemia in animals. Over a decade later in 1955, researchers in Berlin reported that another sulphonylurea, carbutamide, also caused hypoglycemia. The drug was immediately used to treat people with diabetes who did not require insulin. The first line of treatment for Type 2 diabetes tends to be lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity which help people with diabetes to lose weight, improve their insulin sensitivity, and lower blood glucose levels. However, in people who either cannot lose weight or maintain their weight loss, or their blood glucose levels are poorly controlled in spite of weight loss, drug treatments such as sulphonylureas are prescribed.

  • The first ever 'Banting Memorial Lecture' is given at King's College Hospital in London

    1947

    The lecture is established by the Diabetic Association in memory of Sir Frederick Banting - one of the co-discoverers of insulin.

    Today it is given annually at Diabetes UK Professional Conference by an internationally recognised scientist working in the field of diabetes research.

    The first lecture was given in 1947 by Professor Charles Best, who worked with Banting to discover insulin.

  • Diabetes UK expands support for diabetes research through Lund Research Fellowships

    1947

    Mr H.M. Lund (whose son Richard has diabetes and is a patient of RD Lawrence) donates £7,000 to the British Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK) exclusively for the purpose of diabetes research.

    Since 1935, the charity's funding of research had only been modest. This windfall led to dramatic growth in the number of applications for research funding and led the charity to establish a Research Grants Committee to award longer and larger grants, including Lund Research Fellowships.

  • The outbreak of World War II brings hardships and new challenges

    1939

    During the War the attention of the Diabetic Association (today known as Diabetes UK) was, understandably, focused on problems posed by the limited availability of insulin and the rationing of food.

    In May 1943, standardised labelling and colour-coding of different forms of insulin was introduced and was of special help to refugees with a poor understanding of English.

    Throughout the war the Association provided information on how to cope with food shortages and successfully lobbied the Ministry of Food on behalf of people with diabetes, granting them extended rations.

  • The British Diabetic Association awards its second grant

    1937

    The grant (of just £40) goes to Dr Frank Young at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research and pays for a research assistant for six months. In 1937 Frank Young discovered that an extract from the brain's pituitary gland could induce diabetes in animals, and he later demonstrated that a growth hormone found in the pituitary gland was responsible for this effect. He also went on to show that diabetes was caused by damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Frank Young's experiments in the late 1930s have been described as "some of the classical experiments in endocrinology [the study of hormones]", and he was knighted for his services to biochemistry in 1976.

  • In 1936, Harold Himsworth of University College Hospital London distinguished between the two main types of diabetes

    1936

    He proposed that some people with diabetes were more sensitive to the glucose-lowering effects of insulin, whereas others were insulin-insensitive, or insulin resistant.

    To test his theory, Himsworth gave people with diabetes glucose and insulin at the same time and then measured how well their bodies moved the glucose from the blood in response to the insulin.

    People who could respond to insulin had more stable blood glucose levels, whereas those who were insensitive to the effects of insulin experienced very high blood glucose levels.

    This was the first major step in understanding the differences between the two conditions that we recognise today as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

  • The British Diabetic Association, now Diabetes UK, awards its first research grant of £50 to Dr Hans Kosterlitz

    1935

    Dr Kosterlitz was working with Nobel Laureate Professor John Macleod in the Physiology Department of the University of Aberdeen.

    Despite an unexpected setback due to the death of Professor Macleod in 1935, Kosterlitz made a major contribution to science in 1939 by revealing a key step in how the liver produces glucose from a sugar called galactose.

    Hans Kosterlitz was able to isolate a modified form of galactose called 'galactose-1-phosphate', which was the first step in its conversion to glucose.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • With help from novelist HG Wells, Dr Robert Daniel Lawrence founded the ‘Diabetic Association’, now known as Diabetes UK

    1934

    In 1934, the Association was the only national organisation of its kind in the world.

    HG Wells was so impressed with the response to an earlier letter in The Times which had asked for money to equip the diabetic clinic at King's College London that he wrote again suggesting the formation of an association of people interested in diabetes:

    "It is proposed to form a Diabetic Association open ultimately to all diabetics, rich or poor, for mutual aid and assistance, and to promote the study, diffusion of knowledge and the proper treatment of diabetes in this country."

  • In 1921, Frederick Banting's research led to the discovery of insulin

    1921

    Working at the University of Toronto, Banting and his graduate student Charles Best were able to make an extract from animal pancreases, and found that it lowered the blood glucose levels of dogs whose pancreases had been removed.

    Banting's team of scientists, who carried out their research in Professor John Macleod's laboratory, then set out to purify insulin to treat people with diabetes.

    The first person to be treated was Leonard Thompson, 14, who was on the verge of death but restored to good health in 1922 after a few months of insulin injections at the Toronto General Hospital.

    In the UK, insulin was first used as part of a research trial in 1922 and became generally available in 1923: the same year that Banting and Macleod were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of insulin.

Otehr Types of Diabetes

  • Genomic testing triggers a revolution for diagnosis of neonatal diabetes

    2015

    Researchers at the University of Exeter report that, over a 10 year period, the time taken for babies diagnosed with diabetes to receive genetic testing has fallen from over four years to under two months. Work to pinpoint the exact genetic causes of the rarer forms of diabetes is revolutionising healthcare for these patients.

  • Diabetes UK launches new five-year plan for research

    2015

    Our new Research Strategy highlights the scale of the problem we are facing, the vital need for new investment, and sets out our ambitious goals for 2015-19.

  • In February, research reveals the exact risk of birth defects in pregnant women with diabetes and the importance of pregnancy planning

    Go to the video on YouTube

    2012

    Researchers funded by Diabetes UK and led by Dr Ruth Bell at Newcastle University shows that women with diabetes are almost four times more likely to have a baby with a birth defect than women without diabetes, but that the risk is closely linked to a mother’s blood glucose level.

    The study, which considered over 400,000 pregnancies in the north of England (including over 1,600 to women with diabetes), suggests that as many as one in 13 deliveries to women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes involve a major congenital anomaly. However, blood glucose levels at the time of conception were the most important factor predicting this risk.

    Diabetes UK calls for the NHS to provide better care for women with diabetes who are planning to have a baby. The charity also urges women with diabetes to plan ahead carefully before becoming pregnant, either by using contraception or by seeking help from their diabetes or preconception clinic to closely monitor and control their condition and ensure the best possible outcomes for their baby.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK)

  • Diabetes UK creates Grants Advisory Panel to give people affected by diabetes a greater say in diabetes research

    2009

    Every year, Diabetes UK receives hundreds of applications from scientists and doctors working in universities and hospitals across the UK. Each one asks for money to cover a researcher’s salary or to pay for equipment and materials needed to carry out diabetes research.

    People with diabetes have helped Diabetes UK to make decisions about the funding of research for many years.

    However, in 2009 the charity made a concerted effort to engage a wider cross-section of people living with diabetes. The aim was to gather a more diverse range of perspectives on applications for research funding and to give them the loudest possible voice.

    To achieve this, the charity created our Grants Advisory Panel (GAP), a group of people affected by diabetes who consider all of the applications we receive and have their say on what should and should not receive our support. GAP consists of people with a lifetime’s experience of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as the parents and carers of people with the condition.

  • Retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in Newcastle’s working age population, thanks to pioneering retinal screening introduced by Diabetes UK researchers in the 1980s

    2009

    With a grant from Diabetes UK Professor Roy Taylor at Newcastle University found that retinopathy was the second most common cause of blindness in Newcastle between 2001 and 2005.

    The charity has supported Newcastle’s screening programme, developed by Prof Taylor and colleagues since 1986. Since 1996 it has been able to screen almost the entire local population of people with diabetes.

    By demonstrating that photographic screening is effective, research in Newcastle has led the way in saving the sight of many people with diabetes and in establishing a national retinopathy screening programme with a network of centres across the UK.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Researchers in France find that insulin can be delivered orally by binding it with a specially formulated chemical mixture

    2007

    By blending insulin with polyester and acrylic-based molecules, the researchers created tiny 'nanoparticles'.

    When these were fed to rats, the researchers found that insulin levels in the blood increased, and blood glucose levels decreased, showing that the insulin was still functional.

    This approach could potentially be the key to ensuring that insulin taken orally is not broken down by enzymes and rendered useless before entering the blood stream.

    (Research not funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Pfizer introduces Exubera, the first insulin product that does not need to be injected, to the UK

    2006

    Availability of the inhaled insulin product on the NHS was reserved for people with a proven needle phobia or people who have severe trouble with injection sites.

    However, the Exubera inhaler, which was the size of a can of tennis balls, was withdrawn in 2007. Not only was the inhaler too large, but getting the dose of insulin right was difficult as well.

    Pen-like injectors seemed like a safer option, with pre-measured doses. Exubera also had a known side effect of reducing lung function and capacity.

  • Diabetes UK researchers discover that a rare form of diabetes is caused by genetic changes that alter the function of the pancreatic beta cells

    2004

    This means that people with this kind of diabetes could switch from daily insulin injections to tablets.

    The researchers, led by Professor Andrew Hattersley of Exeter's Peninsula Medical School, showed that these genetic changes meant that insulin was not released by the pancreas, resulting in 'neonatal diabetes' being diagnosed in the first six months of life.

    They went on to show that many people with this form of neonatal diabetes were able to switch from multiple insulin injections to sulphonylurea tablets to give them dramatically improved blood glucose control with fewer episodes of hyper- and hypoglycaemia, and a significantly better quality of life.

    Exeter is the major centre in the world conducting this genetic test and has been a recipient of Diabetes UK funding for over 14 years. The staff there have had referrals from all over the UK and from 54 countries across five continents. Over 400 people have benefited enormously from the change in treatment, and Professor Hattersley says he is aware of over 600 recognised cases worldwide, with new patients being diagnosed every week.

    This particular form of neonatal diabetes accounts for about 55 per cent of all cases of permanent neonatal diabetes, and people of all ages have had their lives transformed by this discovery: the youngest being one week and the oldest 48 years.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • A Diabetes UK-funded grant identifies a highly accurate computer imaging method for detecting diabetic retinopathy

    1996

    Building on the work of the British Diabetic Association (Diabetes UK) Mobile Retinal Screening Group, Diabetes UK-funded researchers led by Professor Alexander Elliott at the University of Glasgow report that a 'neural network' computer imaging method achieved good accuracy for the detection of retinopathy compared to an ophthalmologist's analysis.

    This work formed a solid foundation that the researchers were able to build on to put in place an automatic retinal screening system in the UK.

    Three years later, in 1999, Diabetes UK-funded researchers led by Mr David Taylor go on to find that digital photography is feasible and an acceptable alternative to Polaroid-based cameras for use in mobile screening. These timely results initiated the use of digital photography and computer analysis in screening, which has been considered best practice ever since.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The Diabetes UK Mobile Retinal Screening Group reports on the performance of 12 diabetes eye screening units, showing that screening using a mobile retinal camera is effective, efficient and robust

    1996

    Using information from 64,000 screenings, the Group also found that mobile screening was highly cost effective and that the screening service should be designed to suit the geography and existing diabetes services in each district.

    The screening units were initially funded by a Diabetes UK application for charitable funds to Allied Dunbar.

    Each location was equipped with a retinal camera and screening vehicle, and the screening service was developed to suit local conditions.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Diabetes UK researchers show that awareness of hypoglycaemia can be restored by avoiding hypos

    Go to the video on YouTube

    1994

    Hypoglycaemia without warning is a dangerous complication of diabetes and the fear of hypos can often limit people's use of intensive insulin therapy to reduce their risk of diabetic complications.

    Professor Stephanie Amiel's pioneering work with Professors Edwin Gale and Simon Heller in reversing hypoglycaemia unawareness led to the Diabetes UK 'make 4 the floor' campaign to encourage people with diabetes not to let their blood glucose levels frequently drop lower than 4 mmol/L, as avoiding levels of 3 mmol/l or less was found to help restore hypo awareness.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • The first digital hand-held glucose meter is launched using sensor technology developed during a Diabetes UK Fellowship

    1987

    In 1982, a five-year Diabetes UK fellowship helped support the career of Professor Anthony Turner. During those five years, Prof Turner and his team at Cranfield University in Bedfordshire took their first steps to becoming one of the top biosensor laboratories in the world. They collaborated with Professor Allen Hill, Professor Tony Cass, and Professor Graham Davis at Oxford University to develop a new kind of biosensor that was simpler, cheaper and performed better than existing devices. This small step forward enabled Prof Turner and his collaborators to launch a pen-sized glucose meter called ExacTech. It was more sensitive, faster and required less blood than anything that had come before, and is the great-grandfather of most meters on the market today.

  • Diabetes UK awards a Clinical Development Grant to Professor Roy Taylor to test the feasibility of using a retinal camera to screen people with diabetes for retinopathy

    1986

    In order to reach enough people to enable the researchers to carry out their study, the eye camera was mounted in a second-hand ambulance which visited diabetes clinics in and around Newcastle upon Tyne.

    This pioneering study, which ran over two years, demonstrated that retinal photography was a more reliable way of screening for retinopathy than using an ophthalmoscope, and that mobile eye screening units were cost-effective and practical.

    This exciting work also led directly to the award of £150,000 from Allied Dunbar's charitable fund to establish 11 further mobile retinal screening vans, providing vital retinal screening services in areas from Hemel Hempstead to Dundee, and Belfast to Norwich.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • With a Diabetes UK Development Grant, researchers from King's College London established the first specialised Diabetic Foot Centre

    1986

    For the first time, this specialised foot clinic allowed for a new, organised approach to treatment, and over three years it achieved a much-improved rate of ulcer healing and reduced the number of people needing to have major amputations.

    The centres, established by clinical researchers Dr Michael Edmonds and Dr Peter Watkins, transformed the lives of people with diabetic foot complications by bringing together the skills of chiropodists, shoe-fitters, nurses, physicians and surgeons to manage the diabetic foot.

    The outcomes showed that specially constructed shoes, intensive chiropody and precise antibiotic treatment were essential aspects of managing the condition.

    In the two years before the clinic was established, there were 11 and 12 major amputations yearly among those attending a general diabetes clinic. Once the foot clinic was established, the rate per year was reduced to seven, seven and five amputations in the following three years.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • Using genetic engineering, a US biotechnology company creates bacteria which are able to produce synthetic human insulin

    1979

    This technique involved introducing synthetic genes which code for the two 'A' and 'B' parts of the insulin protein into bacteria, which then produced the two parts of the insulin protein separately.

    David Goeddel, who was working for Genentech at the time, was then able to chemically combine these parts to produce insulin that was identical in chemical structure to human insulin.

    In 1982, synthetic 'human' insulin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the first such product, called Humulin, was manufactured by Eli Lilly.

    From this point on, genetic engineering has been widely used to produce variations on the insulin molecule which are clinically more effective than human insulin.

  • Laser photocoagulation therapy is shown to be effective at slowing and preventing blindness resulting from diabetes

    1978

    The Diabetic Retinopathy Study (DRS) found that photocoagulation treatment, which seals off the leaking blood vessels that cause sight loss in retinopathy, was effective in reducing severe visual loss in people with advanced diabetic retinopathy.

    In the study, one eye of each of the 1,742 participants was randomly assigned to an untreated control group, while the other was randomly assigned to one of two kinds of photocoagulation treatments.

    Due to the success of the treatment, the DRS protocol was changed in 1976 to allow treatment of the untreated control eyes.

    Although the DRS was designed to test the effectiveness of the photocoagulation treatments, the existence of an untreated control eye provided a unique opportunity for understanding the natural course of advanced retinopathy uninfluenced by treatment.

    This study was a true breakthrough in the treatment of eye disease which would have otherwise caused blindness for many people with diabetes.

  • Researchers develop an effective treatment for the diabetic coma using continuous low-dose infusion of insulin.

    1974

    Prior to this, many different regimens of insulin administration had been used in the management of diabetic coma, also known as extreme diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), but none had been generally accepted. High doses of insulin had previously been used to anticipate insulin 'resistance', which was thought to be a risk in some people with severe DKA. However, this research carried out by Professor Peter Sonksen, Dr Peter Watkins, Professor Sir George Alberti and other Diabetes UK-funded researchers at King's College Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital and the University of Oxford found that this was not the case. Low-dose insulin infusion was soon widely accepted as a simple, safe and effective treatment for DKA which is still used today.

  • Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY) is first described as a distinct variation of Type 2 diabetes

    1974

    After noticing that a group of young people with diabetes could be treated without insulin two years or more after diagnosis, Professor Robert Tattersall described an inherited form of 'mild' diabetes with early onset, which resulted in relatively few complications. For example, seven out of the 12 people who were diagnosed under the age of 30 that Professor Tattersall studied had no signs of retinopathy after an average of 37 years. Since the 1970s there has been great interest in MODY as a genetic form of diabetes. Each form of MODY is caused by a fault in a single gene whereas Type 2 diabetes is more likely to be caused by minor modifications in several genes. By studying the genes known to cause MODY, scientists can gain insights into the mechanisms causing other more common types of diabetes. The first gene to be linked to MODY was identified in 1992 by Professor Philippe Froguel in France, and there are now six genes in which variations are known to cause 87% of MODY in the UK.

  • Researchers successfully isolate the Islets of Langerhans in rats

    1967

    Dr Paul Lacy and his colleagues at Washington University describe a new method – based on an enzyme called collagenase - to isolate the islets of Langerhans. Collagenase was used because of its ability to break down the chemical bonds in collagen - the main component in connective tissue in animals. Dr Lacy's discovery paved the way for further research into how islet cells work, the causes of diabetes, and better methods of isolating and preparing human islet cells for transplantation, which has since been used to successfully treat Type 1 diabetes in humans.

  • Researchers first describe the presence of the protein 'albumin' in the urine, now called 'microalbuminuria', in people with diabetes

    1964

    With funding from Diabetes UK, Professor Harry Keen and colleagues develop a 'radioimmunoassay' which formed the basis of a test which is now used throughout the world to screen for and monitor the course of nephropathy (kidney disease) in diabetes. They went on to demonstrate that it was possible to identify people very early on in the development of kidney damage, who were at very high risk of end-stage kidney disease and premature cardiovascular disease. This work opened the way for screening for early kidney complications and for very early intervention with ACE inhibitors, delaying dialysis for many people with diabetes.

  • Researchers in Cambridge modify a technique for measuring insulin levels, leading to its commercialisation and use worldwide.

    1963

    Led by the late Professor Nick Hales, this work greatly improved upon the technique developed in 1956 by Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson, making it faster and more reliable. The new technique, which relied on radioactively-labelled antibodies that recognise insulin was termed the 'immunoradiometric assay', was rapidly commercialised and became the basis for the first widely used test to measure insulin. Professor Hales' first major scientific paper, describing this new method, was published in the Biochemical Journal in 1963 and was referenced by a staggering 4000 later papers. After this, he went on to publish around 250 original papers in a hugely successful and influential career. Diagnostic tests based on labelled antibodies are now used in countless clinical and research applications.

  • Diabetes UK begins funding Professor Sir Philip Randle, whose research led the world in basic biochemistry and helped to interptet the metabolic basis of Type 2 diabetes.

    1960

    "Professor Randle worked, amongst other things, on the uptake of glucose by muscle tissue and how insulin is secreted from the beta cells. Along with Professor Sir Philip Cohen and Professor Dick Denton, his research has had a huge impact on our understanding of diabetes today. With funding from Diabetes UK throughout the 1960s, his best-known contribution to diabetes research is probably the identification of the 'glucose-fatty acid cycle', which he worked on with his research student at the time, Professor Denton. This innovative hypothesis was first put forward in a paper in The Lancet in 1963, and suggested that, instead of being solely related to carbohydrate metabolism, insulin resistance was also linked to the release of fatty acids from the body's fat tissue. Crucially, the ‘glucose-fatty acid cycle’ also recognised that, given a choice between glucose and fatty acids, muscle uses the fatty acids as its main energy source.

  • In 1959 it was discovered that the beta cells of the pancreas are responsible for producing insulin

    1959

    Dr Paul Lacy of Washington University used antibodies to 'stain' parts of the pancreas under the microscope, revealing where insulin molecules were located and therefore which cells were likely to be producing insulin.

    He was one of the first scientists to identify the different cell types within the islets of Langerhans, and helped us to understand how the beta cells manufacture, store and release insulin in response to glucose.

    He was later awarded Diabetes UK's Banting Award for his work, and gave the Diabetes UK Banting memorial lecture in 1963.

  • The British Diabetic Association (Diabetes UK) launches a Research Appeal to support diabetes research

    1957

    By 1964 the appeal had achieved its initial target of £100,000 and, such was the enthusiasm of the charity's supporters and local branches, that by the end of 1973 the appeal had raised £1 million.

  • Researchers in New York develop the radioimmunological assay (RIA) procedure, which measures insulin with much greater precision than ever before

    1956

    Rosalyn Yalow and Solomon Berson exploited the understanding that insulin would bind to 'anti-insulin' antibodies produced by the immune system, and in 1960 they used their technique to show that people with Type 2 diabetes often produce more insulin than people without diabetes. Their early work on this technique revolutionised many areas of medicine and in 1977 Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work.

  • The first ever 'Banting Memorial Lecture' is given at King's College Hospital in London

    1947

    The lecture is established by the Diabetic Association in memory of Sir Frederick Banting - one of the co-discoverers of insulin.

    Today it is given annually at Diabetes UK Professional Conference by an internationally recognised scientist working in the field of diabetes research.

    The first lecture was given in 1947 by Professor Charles Best, who worked with Banting to discover insulin.

  • Diabetes UK expands support for diabetes research through Lund Research Fellowships

    1947

    Mr H.M. Lund (whose son Richard has diabetes and is a patient of RD Lawrence) donates £7,000 to the British Diabetic Association (now Diabetes UK) exclusively for the purpose of diabetes research.

    Since 1935, the charity's funding of research had only been modest. This windfall led to dramatic growth in the number of applications for research funding and led the charity to establish a Research Grants Committee to award longer and larger grants, including Lund Research Fellowships.

  • The outbreak of World War II brings hardships and new challenges

    1939

    During the War the attention of the Diabetic Association (today known as Diabetes UK) was, understandably, focused on problems posed by the limited availability of insulin and the rationing of food.

    In May 1943, standardised labelling and colour-coding of different forms of insulin was introduced and was of special help to refugees with a poor understanding of English.

    Throughout the war the Association provided information on how to cope with food shortages and successfully lobbied the Ministry of Food on behalf of people with diabetes, granting them extended rations.

  • The British Diabetic Association awards its second grant

    1937

    The grant (of just £40) goes to Dr Frank Young at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research and pays for a research assistant for six months. In 1937 Frank Young discovered that an extract from the brain's pituitary gland could induce diabetes in animals, and he later demonstrated that a growth hormone found in the pituitary gland was responsible for this effect. He also went on to show that diabetes was caused by damage to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Frank Young's experiments in the late 1930s have been described as "some of the classical experiments in endocrinology [the study of hormones]", and he was knighted for his services to biochemistry in 1976.

  • In 1936, Harold Himsworth of University College Hospital London distinguished between the two main types of diabetes

    1936

    He proposed that some people with diabetes were more sensitive to the glucose-lowering effects of insulin, whereas others were insulin-insensitive, or insulin resistant.

    To test his theory, Himsworth gave people with diabetes glucose and insulin at the same time and then measured how well their bodies moved the glucose from the blood in response to the insulin.

    People who could respond to insulin had more stable blood glucose levels, whereas those who were insensitive to the effects of insulin experienced very high blood glucose levels.

    This was the first major step in understanding the differences between the two conditions that we recognise today as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

  • The British Diabetic Association, now Diabetes UK, awards its first research grant of £50 to Dr Hans Kosterlitz

    1935

    Dr Kosterlitz was working with Nobel Laureate Professor John Macleod in the Physiology Department of the University of Aberdeen.

    Despite an unexpected setback due to the death of Professor Macleod in 1935, Kosterlitz made a major contribution to science in 1939 by revealing a key step in how the liver produces glucose from a sugar called galactose.

    Hans Kosterlitz was able to isolate a modified form of galactose called 'galactose-1-phosphate', which was the first step in its conversion to glucose.

    (Research funded by Diabetes UK.)

  • With help from novelist HG Wells, Dr Robert Daniel Lawrence founded the ‘Diabetic Association’, now known as Diabetes UK

    1934

    In 1934, the Association was the only national organisation of its kind in the world.

    HG Wells was so impressed with the response to an earlier letter in The Times which had asked for money to equip the diabetic clinic at King's College London that he wrote again suggesting the formation of an association of people interested in diabetes:

    "It is proposed to form a Diabetic Association open ultimately to all diabetics, rich or poor, for mutual aid and assistance, and to promote the study, diffusion of knowledge and the proper treatment of diabetes in this country."

  • In 1921, Frederick Banting's research led to the discovery of insulin

    1921

    Working at the University of Toronto, Banting and his graduate student Charles Best were able to make an extract from animal pancreases, and found that it lowered the blood glucose levels of dogs whose pancreases had been removed.

    Banting's team of scientists, who carried out their research in Professor John Macleod's laboratory, then set out to purify insulin to treat people with diabetes.

    The first person to be treated was Leonard Thompson, 14, who was on the verge of death but restored to good health in 1922 after a few months of insulin injections at the Toronto General Hospital.

    In the UK, insulin was first used as part of a research trial in 1922 and became generally available in 1923: the same year that Banting and Macleod were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of insulin.