Health - Diabetes - About The Sector

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the body does not sufficiently produce or when it cannot effectively use the sugar-regulating hormone insulin normally produced by the pancreas. The World Health Organisation estimated1that 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes in 2012. It is expected to be the 7th leading cause of death in 20302. In 2014, 9% of adults suffered from diabetes globally. Of the 3.4 million deaths annually due to high blood sugar, almost half are in people aged under 70 and over 80% occur in low- to middle-income countries. The two most common forms of diabetes are early onset (Type 1, insulin dependent) and late onset (Type 2).

Approximately 60 million people in the European Region have diabetes, roughly 10% each of both men and women with the disease being slightly more prevalent in men. It is becoming more common in Europe among all ages, mostly due to poor lifestyle effects (increases in overweight and obesity, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise). Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, can cause severe nerve damage in the feet leading to foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation, commonly causes damage to the eyesight and potential, is one of the leading causes of kidney failure and overall it doubles the risk of death compared with the peer group without diabetes.

The role of nanotechnology in diabetes care is in the potential replacement of injections of insulin (for Type 1 diabetes) by non-invasive treatments such as nasal sprays and patches and the use of pills. The small size of nanoparticles can enable them to enter the body through the skin and be absorbed into the body without direct injection. It may be possible in the longer term to combine a nanotechnology based sensor of glucose levels with a dermal patch that releases insulin to the body when required. As with many pharmaceuticals, nanocoatings are being explored as offering slow- and/or targeted- release of therapeutics.

1. World Health Organization. Global Health Estimates: Deaths by Cause, Age, Sex and Country, 2000-2012. Geneva, WHO, 2014.
2. Mathers CD, Loncar D. Projections of global mortality and burden of disease from 2002 to 2030. PLoS Med, 2006, 3(11):e442