Transatlantic co-operation to halt the diabetes train
To stop the juggernaut of early onset diabetes in its tracks, experts are calling for more international research co-operation, underpinned by better, more timely communication among the main actors in the field. This was the key message to come out of the high-level diabetes workshop, jointly hosted by the Research DG and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
Type I diabetes results from the destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It leads to serious metabolic disorders affecting people of all ages, but most common in those under 40 years of age. Europe has the highest known incidence of the disease, which currently has no cure. But there is reason for hope, notes a recently released report from proceedings of the EU-JDRF workshop held late last year. Exciting advances are being made across Europe in stem cell research, genetics, beta cell therapy, and immune tolerance, to name a few.
|JDRF-funded researcher Dr Ann Marie Schmidt.|
Type I diabetes is caused by a problem in the pancreas – an organ in the abdomen. It produces a hormone called insulin which helps us metabolise food. People lacking insulin – which controls the flow of sugar (glucose) in and out of our bodies’ cells – have to inject it into their bodies several times a day.
This means they have to monitor their blood glucose levels constantly and watch their diets carefully. People with diabetes are also more prone to several other conditions, such as stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and eye disease. They often die younger. On top of the human costs is the mounting burden to health systems straining to treat type I diabetes and the increasingly prevalent type II, which is closely linked to weight.
On 2 December 2005, the European Parliament hosted a workshop organised by the Commission, with leading diabetes researchers and JDRF – a charity set up in 1970 by parents of children with the disease to find a cure for the debilitating disease. The workshop aimed to strengthen ties between the stakeholders and boost scientific collaboration.
Some 3.2 million people died from diabetes (all types) worldwide in 2004, which according to MEP John Bowis, was slightly more than AIDS that year. He underlined at the workshop that the Austrian EU Presidency had made diabetes one of its priorities.
Alain Vanvossel of the European Commission conceded that “the toll taken by diabetes is very high” and he applauded the collaboration with the JDRF which resulted in increased scientific synergies benefiting patients across Europe.
“Increased communication between the [EU-funded] teams helps to eliminate bottlenecks blocking the dissemination of information and, ultimately, accelerates the pace of research,” notes the report.
In fact, the EU has almost tripled funding for diabetes/obesity research from €44.5 million in the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) to €127 million in FP6 (at its midway mark). And this extra investment has paid off in terms of increased collaboration, according to the Commission.
EU and JDRF
JDRFType I diabetes (Netdoctor.co.uk)EU releases €11.7 million for diabetes research (13 November 2003, Rapid press releases)Extensive list of diabetes links, including EU ones