One Minute Insight
Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly talks about the metabolism, endocrinology and bone research at the NIHR Cambridge BRC, in particular the work in Type 1 diabetes.
Researchers in Cambridge have discovered genetic variants (small changes in DNA) that help protect people from obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. These findings could help researchers to develop drugs for people who have weight problems.
Obesity is a serious problem; it can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and mobility problems.
Cambridge researchers studied a gene called ‘MC4R’ which is known to regulate weight by acting like an ‘off’ switch for appetite. By looking at samples from half a million volunteers in the UK, they found that in naturally lean people small changes in the MC4R gene were able to limit their appetite to prevent weight gain. They also found that some people had a version of the gene that defended against the risk of diseases associated with obesity such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
These findings help explain the genetics of why slim people have an advantage when managing their weight. The research could now help researchers to develop new treatments to help people reduce excess weight.
Cambridge researchers from the Metabolic, Endocrinology and Bone research theme collaborated with our Women’s Health and Paediatrics theme to develop a world-leading artificial pancreas system (a continuous glucose monitoring device) for people with type 1 diabetes. The system uses smartphone technology to communicate with an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor.
The system calculates and delivers the correct amount of insulin needed at any particular time, therefore cutting out the need for injections, improving glucose control and reducing the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). The continuous glucose monitor is worn 24/7 meaning that blood sugar levels are continuously measured including through the night leading to less disturbed sleep patterns.
More than 150 children and adults have trialled the device and compared it with the best available therapy in diabetes clinics internationally, including the UK, Germany and Austria. Longer-term trials are ongoing, testing the artificial pancreas in newly diagnosed children and adolescents and young children aged 1 to 7 years old.