Success stories feature in new DRWF documentary film, highlighting need to continue funding research in the UK.

The 'Our Heroes' video, launched this World Diabetes Day, highlights success stories from DRWF-funded research and support:

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DRWF-funded research is making a life-changing difference for a small number of people living with type 1 diabetes, an auto-immune form of the condition, which is unrelated to lifestyle, as well as providing hope of a future cure for the wider diabetes community.

The DRWF Human Islet Isolation Facility is located within the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM) at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford. The facility harvests insulin-producing islet cells from donor pancreas for research and transplant.

Life-changing results from DRWF Human Islet Isolation Facility at The Churchill Hospital, Oxford

Sarah Tutton, DRWF Chief Executive, said: “Although only a small number of people can currently benefit from an islet cell transplant at present, with our continued financial support, we believe all aspects of this research will refine to overcome current limitations and challenges and make it a more viable treatment option for more people, in future years.

“Our aim is to help people living with diabetes stay well until a cure is found. We are seeing some outstanding, life-changing, results from the unprecedented multi-million pounds (£GBP) funding we have put into creating a human islet isolation facility that is pivotal to the UK islet transplant programme, over the last 18 years.”

Ann at home.

“Transplant transformed my life,” patient reveals in new awareness-raising campaign

Ann has been living with type 1 diabetes since she was 19-years-old and was able to come off insulin following a successful transplant. She had seen her health deteriorate with the onset of hypoglycaemic unawareness, so she had no sense of when her blood glucose was running low, which meant she could not be left on her own.

Ann said: “My diagnosis of diabetes came as a shock, as there was no history of diabetes in my family, but I was determined that it wouldn’t define me. However, once I’d had my children, my control became more challenging, and I stopped getting hypo symptoms. This was life changing for both me and my family. My life had become very narrow and limited, and so after careful consideration, an islet transplant seemed like the right course of action for me as I had a strong fear of losing my future independence.

“I am so grateful for the positive changes the transplant made, not only to me but also to the whole family. The transplant was really about restoring my hypo-awareness so the years free from injecting insulin were very much a bonus. It has allowed me to go on to be a head teacher for six years.”

She received her islet transplants at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford and Paul Johnson Professor of Paediatric Surgery and Director of the DRWF Islet Isolation Facility and the Oxford Islet Transplant Programme said the DRWF facility has paved the way for this breakthrough.

Over the last few years, insulin technology has advanced incredibly, but ultimately, technology still only controls diabetes rather than reverses it, and there will always be a cohort for whom islet transplantation is the treatment of choice. This cohort will increase significantly once we are able to transplant islets without the need for life-long immunosuppression (anti-rejection drugs).

— Professor Paul Johnson
Professor Paul Johnson at his research lab.

Pivotal role in the supply of islets for the delivery of an NHS-funded national therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes

Mrs Tutton added: “In 2004, we made an unprecedented grant of £1.4 million to the Nuffield Department of Surgery, now at the University of Oxford, for the provision of a Human Islet Isolation Facility which is now based at Churchill Hospital. It plays a pivotal role in the supply of islets for the delivery of an NHS funded national therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes with the aim of restoring hypo-awareness symptoms. Loss of these can be life-limiting and life-threatening.

“Ann’s experience is a wonderful illustration of the effects of a transplant and the changes it made to her and her family’s life. Since the launch of the facility in 2006, we have continued to fund a minimum of 30% of the research team to ensure that the world-class expertise required to further this work, is secure and continues.”

Katie took on the London Marathon to raise awareness and funding.
Katie Boots with her daughter in the DRWF film

It was the least I could do to help the charity to continue funding research which I hope will lead to better management and ultimately a cure. Eddie has been amazing and has dealt with everything in a very positive way.

— Katie Boots
Eddie Boots Type 1 Injecting Insulin
Eddie Boots Type 1

Ann and Katie feature in a new film, launched on World Diabetes Day, to talk about their lives and how they manage their diabetes. It’s part of a DRWF campaign to highlight the continuing need to fund diabetes research in the UK and raise awareness to the impact of DRWF’s work as the charity approaches its 25th anniversary year.

The film also features Claire Levy (62), who has been living with type 2 diabetes for five years.

Claire, who works at DRWF as Head of PR and Communications, said: “Diabetes is a long-term condition, however there is every opportunity to live as well as possible. For me, losing weight and increasing my activity has made a difference to my day-to-day life.

“The more you understand about the condition the better your health will be. DRWF has some fantastic resources to help you manage your diabetes and reduce the risk of complications. I’m still living with diabetes, but I’m living well.”

The new DRWF film provides a positive look at living with diabetes, and the difference that our donors’ gifts make to enable work such as this to continue. So much more work needs to be done to maintain momentum and keep this programme moving forward. We can only do that with the continued support of generous and committed donors. 

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Hear more on this in our World Diabetes Day Special Podcast

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