My uncle’s diabetes led me to become a scientist – by Soraya

I’m a science student and I’m carrying out research that’s looking at how to spot diabetic kidney disease in its early stages by studying a test that looks at whether the kidneys are leaking protein into urine.

I was motivated to get involved in this area of diabetes research because of the experiences of my uncle, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2008.

I had the opportunity of seeing first-hand how debilitating this condition can be and its impact both for the sufferer and their loved ones. Prior to being diagnosed my uncle was an independent man who enjoyed working and interacting regularly with his community.

I saw first-hand how diabetes impacted on my uncle

However, shortly after his diagnosis the rapid decline of his health caused him to be put on a rigorous treatment strategy and ensured that he could not work or socialise anymore.

In contrast to many diabetic patients my uncle condition worsened over time and he had to rely on me and other family members to help him accomplish both basic and more difficult tasks.

In 2010 his vision and skeletal muscles began to degenerate and this resulted in him becoming blind, wheel-chair bound and depressed that he could no longer do the things he had once done so well.

Kidney complications

Additionally, that year he developed further complications with his kidneys. The doctors told us his kidneys were not efficiently filtering toxic substances from his body and so he would immediately need to start intensive dialysis treatment, three times a week. His health deteriorated and in 2014 he was told he was suffering from chronic kidney failure and would need a transplant.

At this time, I started looking up other treatment options available. I found out about stem cell therapy. Stem cells are unique because they have the ability to change into a number of other cells in the body, including healthy kidney cells which can be used to improve kidney function.

My uncle’s diabetes led me to research

Sadly, my uncle passed away in 2016. However seeing him live with the complications of diabetic kidney disease motivated me to study this at an advanced level. In the near future I hope my research will help new ways of detecting this serious condition earlier and ensure that no other people with diabetes have to go through what my uncle did.

Diabetes UK’s research projects

We are currently funding almost £900,000 worth of research into diabetes-related kidney disease alone, to better diagnose, treat and prevent it. Head to our research projects to find out more about what our scientists are doing to fight this complication.

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