It is national diabetes week, and we would like to raise awareness of this chronic, progressive condition, and to highlight some research being done at the Bionics Institute.

The majority of diabetic patients suffer from the type 2 form of the disease, where the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. As a result, the insulin is increasingly ineffective at managing glucose levels in the blood.

Sustained high blood glucose in people with diabetes may lead to complications including kidney disease, loss of sensation and pain in feet, legs or hands and loss of vision. Even with lifestyle changes and using medication and insulin injections, many people fail to achieve adequate glucose control.

Results from a small pre-clinical study at the Bionics Institute have shown that applying different electrical stimulation strategies to the abdominal vagus nerve can effect changes in blood glucose levels and pancreatic hormone output. The vagus nerve, amongst other things, regulates energy metabolism, blood glucose control, and food intake.

This is a very exciting outcome; next steps for our researchers are to establish the safety and efficacy of this procedure to support the launch of a pilot clinical trial with diabetic patients. Read more about our research here.