Why do some diabetes patients develop neuritis, which can lead to amputation in a worst-case scenario, while others do not? And how can we prevent the disease developing? These are some of the questions which will be investigated by Professor Troels Staehelin Jensen and a group of Danish, English and American researchers in a major new interdisciplinary research project.
The project will take place over the coming six years and has just received funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The existing research in the field is limited:
"People do not die from neuritis, which perhaps explains why this area has been neglected in terms of research. But the complications that it causes have major consequences for the individual patient and in socio-economic terms. It is therefore extremely important that we gain more knowledge about the disease," says the head of the coming project, Professor Troels Staehelin Jensen from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital.
Global diabetes epidemic
60 million Europeans and 26 million Americans presently suffer from diabetes. In Denmark, 320,000 people have the disease and each year a further 30,000 new patients are diagnosed with diabetes. Troels Staehelin Jensen adds that the number of diabetic patients is increasing rapidly all over the world. This means that the cases of diabetic neuropathy, as it is also called, are also increasing. Up to half of all diabetics develop neuritis.
The symptoms include the feeling of walking on broken glass, pain in the feet, wounds on the feet that refuse to heal and difficulty walking. The disease is one of the primary causes of diabetes-related hospital admissions and amputations.
The research project is interdisciplinary and will consist of a number of sub-projects that will analyse diabetic neuropathy from different angles. "In the project we will combine data from relevant patient registers with samples from more than 6,000 Danish diabetic patients to learn more about why and the disease occurs and who develops it," says Troels Staehelin Jensen, and continues:
"If, for example, it turns out that there are certain metabolic substances in the blood which are detrimental for the nerve cells, then it will hopefully be possible to use this knowledge to develop preventive or inhibiting medicine."
By combining knowledge from clinical studies, basic research and registry studies, the researchers hope that it will in future be easier to assess the individual patient's risk of developing neuritis and that treatment of the disease will become more effective.
In addition to the researchers from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University, which is the host institution for the new centre, leading researchers from Odense University Hospital, Oxford University and Michigan University are also participating in the project.
Professor Troels Staehelin Jensen
Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine, Danish Pain Research Centre and
Aarhus University Hospital
Tel.: +45 2616 7042