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Research spotlight - stopping foot problems

Having diabetes means you're at a much higher risk of getting foot problems. Without the right treatment, people with diabetes can develop foot ulcers, infections and, at worst, need to have amputations.

That's why it's vital we find better ways to prevent and treat foot complications, and our scientists are on the case.

It all started in the 80's

Our work with King’s College Hospital during the 1980s began to change the footcare people with diabetes receive. From 1981, working with the hospital, we helped set up the first Diabetic Foot Clinic in the UK. It offered specialised and urgent care to people with diabetes who had foot problems. After three years the number of major amputations had halved.

foot clinic

“We’re indebted to Diabetes UK for the support we received. We were able to establish a multidisciplinary team made up of podiatrists, nurses, orthotists, surgeons and physicians and built the Diabetic Foot Clinic, which included a specialist shoe-fitting service. And even today, the charity continues to fund vital research to prevent foot complications.”

Professor Michael Edmonds, founder of the King’s College Hospital foot clinic.

Since then we’ve campaigned for similar improvements to footcare for people with diabetes across the NHS. We’ve worked with hospitals and NHS managers to make sure they have multidisciplinary footcare teams ready to stop an ulcer becoming an amputation.

But we're not finished yet

 

Can new ceramic materials combat Charcot foot?

Almost 90 years on, we’re still supporting research at the very same foot clinic to improve footcare. Our funding there is helping Dr Nina Petrova develop new treatments for a debilitating foot complication of diabetes, called Charcot foot, which causes the bones in the foot to collapse.

She's testing a new range of materials, called bioceramics, to see if this can encourage healing and transform treatment for Charcot foot. Find out more about Nina's research.

Dr Nina Petrova in the lab

"Using bioceramics to treat fractures in people with Charcot foot will have a huge impact, because this may lead to faster and complete healing of fractures. Of course this may also lead to a significant reduction in foot deformity, which in turn means less ulcers and hopefully less amputations.”

Dr Nina Petrova, King's College Hospital

Can chilli treat chronic foot pain?

Professor Anand, at Imperial College London, is hoping to tackle chronic pain in the feet caused by nerve damage. He'll test if a new skin plaster that uses Capsaicin - the hot ingredient in chilli peppers - can help treat foot pain and potentially reverse nerve damage in people with diabetes. This could transform quality of life for people with this debilitating complication. Find out more about Professor Anand's research into treatments for chronic foot pain.

Speeding up wound healing in foot ulcers

Scientists know that levels of a particular protein (called PTP1B) found in immune cells are higher in diabetic foot ulcers. Professor Delibegovic, at the University of Aberdeen, is finding out if reducing the activity of PTP1B can speed up the healing process in foot ulcers.

This research could lead to the development of new treatments and reduce the risk of devastating amputations in people with diabetes. Find out more about Professor Delibegovic's research into foot ulcers.

 

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