Technological advances have increased the life expectancy of people with type 1 diabetes, study finds

Kurt Wood
Mon, 05 Oct 2015
Technological advances have increased the life expectancy of people with type 1 diabetes, study finds
The life expectancy of people with type 1 diabetes has improved significantly in recent years, thanks to technological advances allowing for careful management of blood glucose levels. The findings come from a study conducted by a team of endocrinologists at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

There are twice as many cases of type 1 diabetes as there were 20 years ago, an increase that has led to a number of technological advances in its treatment: more accurate blood glucose meters, insulin pumps, smartphone apps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) have all contributed to a longer life expectancy for people with type 1 diabetes.

However, type 1 diabetes is still associated with a shorter life expectancy than people without diabetes.

"Despite recent advances, T1D is still associated with considerable premature mortality caused by acute and chronic complications, particularly ischaemic heart disease," wrote the researchers.

"The presence and severity of chronic kidney disease and ischaemic heart disease predict all-cause mortality in T1D. Recent reports of improved life expectancy...provide great hope for persons with T1D and their clinicians."

Nevertheless, "recent findings show that a significant improvement in life expectancy has occurred," wrote the researchers.

Along with better management, recent advances have led researchers to be hopeful that a cure will be available in the reasonably near future. Several studies have managed to prevent type 1 diabetes at various stages.

"The ability to predict T1D on the basis of genetic, immunological and metabolic markers has provided opportunities for prevention at different preclinical stages," the researchers wrote. "Much attention has focused on interventions at diagnosis and in the preclinical antibody positive stage."

One of the most promising methods of treating type 1 diabetes remains islet cell transplantation. However, it isn't currently viable on a widespread basis. It often requires the cells of several donors to treat one patient, and donors are few as it is. Even when the transplant has been carried out successfully, the recipient has to take immunosuppressant drugs for the foreseeable future to prevent the immune system from rejecting the new cells, leaving them at risk of a number of other diseases.

"Limited tissue supply is a key barrier to more widespread use of islet transplantation. Advances in stem-cell technologies or in the production of porcine islets for human transplant may overcome this problem in the future."

The findings were published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
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