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A NIDDK Overview of Diabetes

What Is the Status of Diabetes Research?

NIDDK supports basic and clinical research in its own laboratories and in research centers and hospitals throughout the United States. It also gathers and analyzes statistics about diabetes. Other institutes at the National Institutes of Health also carry out research on diabetes-related eye diseases, heart and vascular complications, pregnancy, and dental problems.

Other Government agencies that sponsor diabetes programs are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indian Health Service, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense.

Many organizations outside of the Government support diabetes research and education activities. These organizations include the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

In recent years, advances in diabetes research have led to better ways to manage diabetes and treat its complications. Major advances include:

  • New forms of purified insulin, such as human insulin produced through genetic engineering
  • Better ways for doctors to monitor blood glucose levels and for people with diabetes to test their own blood glucose levels at home
  • Development of external and implantable insulin pumps that deliver appropriate amounts of insulin, replacing daily injections
  • Laser treatment for diabetic eye disease, reducing the risk of blindness
  • Successful transplantation of kidneys in people whose own kidneys fail because of diabetes
  • Better ways of managing diabetic pregnancies, improving chances of successful outcomes
  • New drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and better ways to manage this form of diabetes through weight control
  • Evidence that intensive management of blood glucose reduces and may prevent development of microvascular complications of diabetes
  • Demonstration that antihypertensive drugs called ACE-inhibitors prevent or delay kidney failure in people with diabetes

What Will the Future Bring?

In the future, it may be possible to administer insulin through nasal sprays or in the form of a pill or patch. Devices that can "read" blood glucose levels without having to prick a finger to get a blood sample are also being developed.

Researchers continue to search for the cause or causes of diabetes and ways to prevent and cure the disorder. Scientists are looking for genes that may be involved in type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes. Some genetic markers for type 1 diabetes have been identified, and it is now possible to screen relatives of people with type 1 diabetes to see if they are at risk for diabetes.

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