It might be about Type 2 diabetes, but DiRECT offers hope for everyone – by Faye Riley
We’ve been shouting about a landmark study called DiRECT recently. Our scientists have shown that a low-calorie weight management programme can help people put their Type 2 diabetes into remission for at least two years. Here’s the latest.
It’s an exciting time for Diabetes UK’s research. Not only do the promising findings show that lasting remission using this low-calorie approach is possible for some, they’ve also helped to inspire NHS Scotland to roll out a remission programme and NHS England to commit to piloting one.
But if, like me, you’re living with Type 1 diabetes, you’re probably wondering when you’re going to hear about a Type 1 breakthrough. But I think everyone, including people with Type 1, should feel more hopeful than ever.
What’s DiRECT got to do with Type 1?
Well on the surface, not a lot. Type 1 diabetes happens when our immune system destroys the cells in our pancreas that make insulin. And a treatment like the one tested in DiRECT is never going to magic these cells back.
But DiRECT offers hope: it shows us what investment in research can achieve. Whatever your experience of diabetes, this news shows that investing in research can make a real difference.
It shows that new ideas can lead to new treatments – and this particular treatment could help people with Type 2 across the world have a future free of the condition.
And I think the really exciting part is the speed at which this has all happened. It’s been just over a year since the very first results from the trial were announced and we’re already seeing changes to the care people with Type 2 diabetes might receive in the future.
High hopes for Type 1 breakthroughs
We’re getting ideas about Type 1 diabetes off the ground too. An idea I’m really excited about – and one we’re investing over £5 million in right now – aims to retrain the immune system to help protect insulin-producing cells. Scientists hope that this approach, called an immunotherapy, could prevent or stop Type 1. We’ve got more on the ins and outs of immunotherapies here.
Immunotherapies are now being tested in clinical trials (just like the DiRECT trial), involving children and adults with Type 1 diabetes. But immunotherapy research is at an earlier stage than DiRECT – so it’s going to take time until these treatments will become part of routine Type 1 care. But once scientists have collected all the evidence they need, and immunotherapies move from the lab into the diabetes clinic, it’ll be an incredible leap forward in how we treat Type 1.
And it’s not just immunotherapies in the pipeline – real headway is being made across a range of Type 1 diabetes research. We recently brought you news about new genetic ‘risk calculators’ to spot babies at high risk of developing Type 1. If doctors and parents know who’s at high risk, they can keep an eye out for the signs of Type 1, to help prevent life threatening complications during diagnosis.
Then we’ve got a host of other Type 1 projects you can explore, from Professor James Shaw who’s working to improve islet cell transplants, to Dr Lalantha Leelarathna who’s investigating the benefits and costs of Flash Glucose Monitoring. Our scientists are researching other types of diabetes too, like MODY and gestational diabetes, and its complications.
Whatever type of diabetes you’re living with or connected to, research is our hope for the future. Thanks to our incredible supporters we’re investing millions of pounds into diabetes research every year. And DiRECT is proof of how truly life-changing the impact of that research can be for people living with diabetes.