Professor Andrew Hattersley and his team at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry have worked to understand the precise genetic mutations which cause diabetes in individual patients, and found that this can have a marked effect on the type of treatment required. Their research has dramatically changed the treatment options for certain patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
In particular, they have shown that drugs which are effective in patients with the normal form of Type 2 diabetes could be four times more effective in patients with the most common genetic form of monogenic diabetes. This has enabled hundreds of patients to take tablets to control their diabetes and released them from the requirement to inject insulin.
Their latest work has centred on children diagnosed with diabetes in the first six months of life. The Exeter team have found four new genetic causes of this type of diabetes and more than 50% of these children can swap their insulin injections for sulphonylurea tablets and get better blood sugar control.
Research in this field has improved patient care and quality of life, correspondingly improved public services, and achieved international impact. Type 1 diabetes is a life-long illness, most frequently developing in childhood: patients are obliged to receive exogenous insulin often by multiple daily injections in perpetuity. This places considerable psychological pressure on the individuals and their families whilst significantly constraining their lifestyle.