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A new drug that enables people with Type 1 diabetes to re-grow insulin-making cells has been developed and is in the process of being trialled in Wales.
The new solution, which has yet to be given a formal name, is being tested by researchers from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, with two people having already been given it and have shown no ill-effects so far. A further eight volunteers who have had the condition for more than two years are being sought.
If it is shown to work, it could mean that people who presently have to inject themselves with insulin on a regular basis will no longer need to do so.
Normally, Type 1 diabetes causes the loss of insulin cells grown in the pancreas, with 90 per cent of sufferers having less than five per cent of these cells left, due to high levels of blood sugar impeding their production.
However, by promoting the re-growth of insulin cells despite high blood sugar levels, the drug could counteract the key cause of the symptoms associated with the disease.
This results in the Welsh government having to pay £500,000 a year to treat the 19,000 people with the condition in Wales, around ten per cent of the Welsh NHS Budget. Most of this goes on dealing with the complications arising from the disease.
Researcher Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali said: "Despite everything achieved in diabetes care, advances in prevention haven't really occurred.
"More insulin-producing beta cells are needed for those with this form of diabetes."
Discussing the development, Carys Thomas Welsh government's Health and Care Research Wales team said the drug could prove to be "ground breaking".
Emphasising that diabetic drugs are a high priority, she added: "It is essential that the NHS works closely with the pharmaceutical industry on research like this to develop drugs that could make a big difference to people's lives."
Written by Martin Lambert
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