JDRF UK Diabetes Discovery Evening Cardiff


Tonight was the first JDRF UK discovery event to be held in Cardiff, so having never attended this event before, I was enthusiastic to go along and see what it was all about. JDRF UK are the british branch of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is a charity that was set up in 1970 by the parents of children with type 1 diabetes. With the aim of shining a greater spotlight onto this area of the condition in the young. I heard about the event on Facebook by following one of the JDRF groups for my area, which is a great way to stay up to date and also to see the great events that are being held by other people around the country to help raise funds for the charity. The evening was held in the Maldron Hotel in Cardiff City centre, which was really easy to get to and so I went along with a few friends both with and without diabetes, but who wanted to ‘discover’ more about the diabetes.

The first speaker of the evening was Connor, who works within the research area of the JDRF UK. He gave a really insightful presentation including a brief history of diabetes treatment through the ages, starting with the discovery of insulin back in the 1920’s. Moving on to what treatment and research projects JDRF are currently funding and working on at the moment. The first was the artificial pancreas- a more ‘closed loop’ system than our current treatment for type 1 with the insulin pump. The artificial pancreas includes a pump to deliver insulin in addition to a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) sensor, a device to control the algorithms of the machine and also a device to display the results/ feedback. How it’s supposed to work is that the sensor measures the blood glucose reading and the algorithms are able to program the pump to deliver insulin without human interaction. Which is a fantastic working concept, however the issue at the moment seems to be that this closed loops system works really well over night when you’re not eating. But during the day is unable to make predictions on factors such as activity levels and make allowances for this in the insulin regimen.

                                                                                              Image: JDRF.org.uk
Artificial Pancreas 

Another project being pioneered by JDRF at the moment are smart insulins, which are a potential future treatment that I touched on whilst blogging about my time at the European Summit on Chronic Diseases. The way that smart insulins work is that the insulin is injected just once a day and is connected to a binding molecule, that will only allow the insulin to be released and utilised when glucose is present in the blood. Which could potentially reduce the risk of hypos and the need for multiple daily injections all at once. Implantable insulin is another project being trialled at the moment whereby beta cells that have been created in the lab opposed to a human donor are inserted into the pancreas, but are encapsulated so as to protect them from the immune response that caused the type 1 diabetes initially. There is also research going into what triggers the diagnosis of diabetes too. Which led nicely onto a talk from Colin Dayan a Professor of Clinical Diabetes and Metabolism who is based in Cardiff University.

                                                                                         Image: JDRF.org.uk
Encapsulated Insulin

Professor Dayan has been working with his team to look into what happens to insulin levels when we are diagnosed with diabetes. What their studies have found so far is that the majority of newly diagnosed patients with type 1 diabetes continue to produce insulin even after their point of diagnosis- often known as the honeymoon period. What they’re hoping to discover, is whether this process could be prolonged with medication. We were shown a slide depicting a meal tolerance test conducted amongst newly diagnosed patients. In the test they are given a sugary drink and their blood sugar levels recorded for the following two hours. The data recorded was what ‘naturally made’ insulin was produced and the response their bodies had to the sugary stimulus. The results showed that some people were able to produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar levels regulated on their own without the need for injections. The final speaker was Paul Coker who’d come to tell us about his ‘Type 1 Lifestyle Event’ that’s coming up in February and at which I’ll be speaking to people about living with diabetes and doing exercise. At the end of the event there was even time to meet some new faces amongst the Cardiff diabetes community which was great to have the opportunity to swap stories and share experiences. The event was really interesting and I really enjoyed the presentations. It was very well organised by JDRF UK’s regional fundraiser Danielle and I look forward to attending the next event.

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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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