Diabetes is a serious condition which can carry a significant risk of both short-term and long-term complications.

Growing epidemic with staggering costs

According to the WHO, the number of people worldwide with diabetes has nearly quadrupled since 1980 to over 420 million; and the prevalence of diabetes in adults has doubled to 1 in 12. The costs are staggering. In 2012 the estimated total cost of diabetes in the US alone was US $245 billion in both direct medical costs and indirect costs such as inability to work or reduced productivity. Average medical expenditures among people with diagnosed diabetes were 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.

Deeper understanding of the disease

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a fault in the body’s immune response in which the immune system mistakenly targets and kills β-cells, the cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin. As more pancreatic β-cells are killed off, the body can no longer control its blood glucose levels and the symptoms of diabetes begin to appear. Lifelong insulin treatment and good control of glucose is important to minimise the risk of developing serious long-term complications.

However, over the past few years there has been great progress in understanding the many cellular pathways and development of different organs.  

Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity and a loss of sensitivity to insulin. However, as the disease progresses, β-cells start to degenerate and individuals with this form of diabetes also require insulin injections. Recent research has defined 5 clusters of diabetes, challenging the traditional Type 1 and Type 2 classifications (Ahlquist et al 2018, Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology).