New Delhi: SC Gupta was diagnosed with diabetes 36 years ago. Since then, the 76-year-old's life has revolved around diet control, popping medicines, and injecting insulin at regular intervals. As an engineer, he spent his youth on project sites, away from home. That added to the challenge of monitoring his blood sugar levels periodically.
"There was a time when I had to take medicines six times a day, and manage work and home and kids. I lost my eyesight and had a heart surgery - side effects of diabetes. It's been a tough life," he told NDTV.
His wife, Madhu Gupta, also a diabetic, recounts how their life now revolves around hourly injections of insulin. "I have to inject insulin three times a day," she says.
Finally, there might be some good news for several diabetes patients like the Guptas. In a breakthrough, researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Australia, have captured the intricate way in which insulin uses the insulin receptor to bind to the surface of cells. This binding is necessary for the cells to take up sugar from the blood as energy.
The study could help develop improved types of insulin medication to treat Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, which could be administered in ways other than conventional injections.
Mike Lawrence, associate professor at the institute, explains, "Pharmaceutical companies are interested in making insulin with varying properties so that people might not have to inject insulin that often, or they might get to register insulin in different ways. In the third world context, they might be able to store insulin at normal temperatures. Our discovery shows which parts of insulin can be altered and the different ways in which you can tweak the molecule to generate new properties to make beneficial therapeutics for patients of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes."
The institute's landmark research has caught the medical fraternity's attention in India, the diabetes capital of the world. Doctors here say it opens up a whole range of medico-health care opportunities.
Dr Anoop Mishra, Director, Fortis C-Doc, says, "It's a very exciting research, but it is still at the lab stage. It will probably take a couple of years before a new molecule is made, which can bind to these receptors in a prolonged way, so that the same insulin acts for a prolonged period of time, or fewer shots can be given, or new drugs can be formed"
Dr Surender Kumar, DM, endocrinology department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and chairman of the department of endocrinology and metabolism at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, says, "The study is truly full of promise; insulin resistance plays a role not just in diabetes but also affects blood pressure, obesity, fertility and even cancer. So, lots of problems can be solved if this can truly be achieved."