JDRF-funded Australian scientist Professor Nathan Efron from the Queensland University of Technology, along with other international researchers and research institutions, has been awarded a combined US$1.1 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US.
This international multi-site multi-disciplinary project grant is for a new study entitled “’Multinational Collaborative Evaluation of Corneal Confocal Microscopy as a Surrogate Endpoint for the Identification and Prediction of Diabetic Neuropathy in Type 1 Diabetes”.
This project aims to test a new, non-invasive technique for detecting and assessing peripheral nerve damage, or neuropathy, in people with type 1 diabetes. The seven-year study will be conducted on 500 people worldwide.
Peripheral neuropathy can be a health complication of long-term type 1 diabetes, and can lead to foot infections, ulcers or amputation. There is currently no effective method for detecting early stage neuropathy in people with type 1 diabetes.
This study will investigate whether early stages of peripheral neuropathy can be detected using corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) to assess damage to small nerve fibres in eye corneas. Changes in these nerve fibres can occur in the early stages of peripheral neuropathy, and correlate to changes in nerve function detected using other invasive methods such as skin biopsy.
CCM is non-invasive, so if this technique is proven effective, people with T1D could undergo regular screening for peripheral neuropathy. People with existing early-stage neuropathy and also those who are at risk of neuropathy will be able to get treatment early, preventing progression of this damage to serious outcomes such as amputations.