Life as a diabetic researcher

Written by Andy Fraser

This blog post starts with a story from a few years ago…

I had survived my teenage years relatively unscathed, save for a few minor rugby injuries and a few major American Football ones. But I wasn’t long into twenties when I noticed a serious change in the way I felt, and through only macho determination, I shrugged off a constant feeling of sickness, believing it was just a result of hard work, too little sleep, and maybe one too many beers. But what I hadn’t realised was that it wasn’t what I was putting in my body that was affecting me, but what I was no longer putting out. Unbeknown to me, my body had decided that producing insulin was no longer on its agenda, and the consequences were dramatic! What started as feeling terrible, soon became unbearable, and on a work trip to London I had to turn back immediately and accept something wasn’t right. A trip to the doctors and a round of blood tests quickly got the bottom of the issue, and a dose of much-needed fluids, and a top up of glorious, glorious, insulin, and I was feeling a bit more like myself. I still remember now how my vision slowly returned to focus from the blurry haze of insulin deficiency.

Back to the present day…

It’s day in, day out. It never stops. It’s relentless.

Most of being diabetic is very hidden – every day involves a thousand little questions, decisions and things to remember… it’s the constant tweaking of blood sugar based upon a huge amount of different variables – carbohydrates in a sandwich at a meeting, exercise effecting sensitivity to insulin, different time zones, those extra couple of biscuits and much more! The key thing I’ve learnt over the years is that it doesn’t all go to plan!

As a researcher, often travelling and juggling lots of different commitments can be a challenge, but with improvements in technology and wearable devices this is helping to support diabetics in the day to day management of their conditions.

One thing that continues to amaze me is that even though Diabetes effects one in 15 of us (more than cancer and dementia combined), general awareness and understanding is limited – I’d be very rich every time I heard… “Are you allowed to eat that?!”. Yes. Yes I am!

Diabetes never stops, but you don’t have to either.

The empowerment of diabetics to manage their conditions is growing, enabling professional cyclists to complete at the highest level, myself to travel all-over the world, and even enabling Prime Ministers to govern the UK.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen the type 1 diabetes management world explode with technology, with multiple products being launched for tracking blood sugar, dosing and administering insulin. The amount of data someone can find about themselves is staggering “What was my blood sugar at 2:30pm? What did I eat? How many units of insulin did I inject?”. All of this data is a gold mine for those inquisitive to read it, and those capable of learning from it.

And while the amount of data is increasing, the need for analysing what these numbers actually mean is the key to great diabetes management. Like the market research world, it’s all about our analysis and understanding to deliver the correct outcome!

Our pharmaceuticals team here at RDSi are seeing innovation in wearable technologies across a variety of different conditions and categories, and we have taken pride in designing and creating research approaches to help optimise and progress their development. As someone who benefits from technological developments in health care, I am proud to contribute to the development of products that can help other people, no matter what condition they are tackling.