Sunderland students’ research aims to help diabetes sufferers

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A TEAM of Wearside students are hoping their research will help diabetics in the battle against foot ulceration or even amputation.

The team from the University of Sunderland is investigating the relationship between the loss of sensation that can sometimes affect the feet and legs, and pressure and forces on the sole of the foot, as well as the electrical impulse in leg muscle that help control balance.

Diabetes now affects a record three million people in the UK, and the loss of sensation and circulatory problems make sufferers prone to developing skin ulcers, which can lead to loss of a limb or death.

The illness also costs the NHS an estimated £50million a year.

The five undergraduates are hoping their research, headed by lecturer Dr Rob Colclough, will help predict the risk of ulceration.

Rob said: “Our study is trying to reduce the likelihood of people with peripheral sensory neuropathy developing foot ulceration.

“More evidence is required to understand how loss in sensation develops, its physical and mechanical implications and its prevention or effective treatment.

“By investigating how much loading is taking place, there may be a physical mechanism which can be introduced to stop the progression, such as a special shoe or insole.”

As part of the research, using the university’s biomechanics laboratory, volunteers are asked to stand and walk across a machine which accurately measures the forces across their foot and another machine will record what muscles in volunteers’ legs are doing.

Retired Sunderland teacher, Joan Johnson, 61, has suffered from Type 2 diabetes for 11 years and is happy to be a volunteer.

She said: “I certainly don’t mind being a guinea pig because it all helps towards the research the university is doing. I would like to see a cure for this disease eventually and think it’s really encouraging knowing the university is involved in this study.”