Celebrating Aussie diabetes inventions, innovations and research this Australia Day

by Kate Marsh on January 21, 2019

Celebrating Aussie diabetes inventions, innovations and research this Australia Day

They may not make the news headlines but there are many ways that Australians are leading the way when it comes to diabetes research and innovation.

Here are just a few that we can celebrate this Australia Day.

3D image of the insulin receptor

Insulin works to manage blood glucose levels by binding to insulin receptors on the surface of our cells and instructing the cells to take up glucose from the blood. But, until now, understanding exactly what happens during this interaction hasn’t been well understood.  However, last year, researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, along with German colleagues, produced the first 3D image of how insulin binds to its receptor.  Their research is expected to help in the development of new treatments for diabetes that more closely mimic the body’s own insulin.

 

The first portable blood glucose meter

When Stanley Clark’s daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five, children with type 1 diabetes could only have their blood glucose levels measured in hospital and had to rely on urine glucose testing at home. An electronics engineer, Clark felt there had to be a better option and in 1979 developed the first portable battery-operated blood glucose monitor.  While much larger, heavier and harder to use than our current day meters, at the time this was life-changing for children with diabetes. Clark received an Order of Australia Medal in 2001 for his distinguished service to diabetes and his first of his blood meters is on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

How far we have come- featured above is the cutting edge Dario Blood Glucose Monitor. Available for iPhone and Android smartphones.
 

The Diabetes Australia Language Position Statement

The language we use when talking about diabetes and to people with diabetes is important. Language reflects and shapes our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. The language we use needs to engage and support people with diabetes and language that de-motivates or induces fear, guilt or distress needs to be avoided.  While awareness around language use in diabetes has increased in the past few years, Australia was the first country to have an official position statement on language use.  Entitled A new language for diabetes: Improving communications with and about people with diabetes, the aim of the position statement is to encourage greater awareness of the language surrounding diabetes, and identify potential improvements.

 

Research on optimising mealtime bolusing for those with type 1

Those with type 1 diabetes know the challenges of working out how much insulin to take with meals.  Currently, most people with type 1 are taught to match their insulin to carbohydrate intake. Yet we now know that both fat and protein also impact blood glucose levels and insulin needs, so also need to be taken into account.  Australian dietitian and University of Sydney researcher, Dr Kirstine Bell, is conducting research looking at how glucose levels respond to meals of varying fat content.  While still underway, the research will help those with type 1 to better match their insulin to food which in turn will help with post-meal blood glucose levels. 

 

Research on the role of gut bacteria in type 1 diabetes development

Researchers from the University of Queensland have recently found that bacteria in the gut have a direct relationship with pancreas function in people with type 1 diabetes and those at high risk.  Changes in gut bacteria were seen before the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, suggesting they may play a role in development. Funded by JDRF, the findings could lead to the development of new therapies to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes in those at risk.

Remember to always seek advice from your medical practitioner before changing anything about your diabetes management. The above information is NOT medical advice.

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