Diabetes research is uncovering new details each week helping us to understand diabetes from a wide variety of angles.

However, within each individual area, research can often appear slow paced, with new steps taking several months or years to become apparent.

This article looks at the progress that has been made through 2012.

Insulin pill

Taking insulin as a pill rather than needing injections has been a hope for many but has proved a difficulty to achieve for researchers.

The challenge has been to develop a pill that can effectively transport insulin into the blood without the insulin being broken down by the body’s digestive system.

In May 2012, Novo Nordisk announced they were getting closer to making this a reality but, to date, we have not seen significant evidence to substantiate the claims.

Insulin nasal spray

Researchers have looked at some funny places to deliver insulin into, with the nose being amongst these locations.

In November, the University of Sunderland declared the development of a unique nasal spray that would form a gel inside the nose to deliver insulin into the blood in a controlled fashion.

We await to see what next steps Dr Hamde Nazar’s team will take in the development of the spray.

Cannabis compounds as a type 2 diabetes treatment

The cannabis plant contains cannabinoids compounds which have been found, in animal studies, to lower cholesterol in the blood and lower fat in organs such as the liver. Fat in and around organs such as the liver and pancreas has been linked with the development of insulin resistance and other health markers associated with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Artificial pancreas

Developments have been made in 2012 in commercially available technology for treating type 1 diabetes, including more accurate continuous glucose monitors now available.

Trials have been run to test out artificial pancreas systems which take in data from continuous glucose monitors, make sense of the numbers and then instruct an insulin pump to deliver an appropriate rate of insulin.

Research in 2012 has also seen improvements in sensing blood glucose levels:

Saliva for testing sugar levels

Above we talked about the use of the inside of the nose for delivering insulin into the blood, now we’re looking at the mouth which scientists have identified as a way to measure sugar levels.

Research shows that as blood sugar levels rise, so does the sugar levels of other liquids in the body including the sugar levels in tears and saliva. One of the difficulties with measuring the sugar levels in these fluids is that the concentration of glucose is much smaller than in blood and therefore achieving accuracy is far from easy.

In January, researchers at Brown University in the US reported the development of a sensor that is able to measure these very small concentrations.

Snake venom to treat type 2 diabetes?

Venom as a treatment? Those that are sceptical may be reminded that the now commonly prescribed drug for type 2 diabetes, Byetta, was discovered and initially derived from the saliva of the venomous gila monster, a lizard found in southwestern states of the US.

Back to snakes again, initial research by a British-Australian collaboration was published in September revealing that the toxins in snake venom could open the door to new treatments. Research is at a very early stage though.

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