MEDICS in Sheffield have been awarded more than £310,000 for a study that could help revolutionise life for thousands of people with diabetes.
Doctors are carrying out the first major investigation of how the brain processes pain caused by diabetes - potentially paving the way for new therapies in the future.
The team of researchers from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and the University of Sheffield has been awarded the grant by the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes and healthcare provider Novo Nordisk.
Diabetes affects more than three million people in the UK, with more than 600,000 suffering from painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy - nerve damage causing pain, particularly in the feet.
But treating the pain has been difficult because doctors do not known exactly what causes the condition.
Previous research in Sheffield has shown the thalamus, an area of the brain, becomes engorged with blood in people that suffer from painful neuropathy.
But it is unclear why patients with the condition experience the pain and what role the thalamus is playing.
The aim is to establish whether the pattern of blood flow in the thalamus is causing the pain, or whether it is actually a response to the pain itself.
Consultant physician Prof Solomon Tesfaye said: “Painful diabetic neuropathy is a debilitating condition, often severely limiting a person’s quality of life.
“Around 50 per cent of people with the condition suffer from anxiety or depression, and it is commonly associated with loss of sleep and unemployment.
“It’s therefore vital we do everything we can to try to find the precise cause of the pain and to try to develop therapies against it.
“A small pilot study we carried out found the thalamus looked different in patients with the condition, and so we have honed in on this as a crucial focus of study.”
The study will be carried out at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital