£1.3 million diabetes research venture begins at the University of Edinburgh

A ground-breaking new £1.3 million diabetes research venture has begun at the University of Edinburgh.

On 23 January, Professor Helen Colhoun, AXA Chair in Medical Informatics and Life Course Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, launched the program at a University scientific symposium. The project is supported by the AXA Research Fund.

Through utilising modern, cutting-edge analysis techniques, Professor Colhoun and her team seek to locate symptom patterns in diabetics that may indicate further implications to come, including heart disease and blindness.

With knowledge of this information, patients will be able to seek treatment in advance, thereby preventing or delaying further health complications.

Professor Colhoun has stated in a University press release last week that: “Quantifying, understanding and predicting risk in diabetes is important to our ability to optimize disease management and prevention of complications.”

At present four million people living in the UK suffer from diabetes. An estimated fourteen billion pounds is spent on treating diabetes and its complications each year.

In regard to the warning signs that can be accessed from the anonymised data, Professor Colhoun told The Student: “We use information on clinical measures including blood glucose control, blood pressure, lipids and so on, to quantify risks of complications such as heart disease and kidney disease.”

Researches will obtain data securely and anonymously from diabetics living in Scotland. Professor Colhoun told The Student that the data will be obtained from both general practices and hospitals. She also stated that the public can be confident that individuals can not be identified by a researcher.

“Scotland has one of the world’s most comprehensive electronic health care record systems and, accordingly, has established a strong data safe haven and data use approval system.

“All researchers have to undergo data governance training and are contractually restricted from making any attempt at identification.  Data use takes place only in special secure designated areas that are subject to technical security scrutiny.”

Sonia Wolsey-Cooper, Head of Corporate Responsibility at AXA UK, remarked in a press release last week that: “Professor Colhoun’s project will… [have] the potential to lead to a greater understanding of diabetes, and other diseases, and has the possibility to open up countless opportunities to better manage diabetes.”

“The potential benefits of the project both for patients and for the NHS could be significant,” Wolsey-Cooper elaborated.

Professor Colhoun stated in the press release that: “The research funding we have received will allow us to focus on this important aspect of diabetes research.”

Image: Alden Chadwick

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