Diabetes innovation scoops award

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A Scottish scientist has won a major award for a treatment which could allow diabetics to inhale insulin.

Currently, Scotland's 200,000 diabetes patients need daily injections to regulate their blood sugar levels.

Dr Marie-Claire Parker, chief executive of Glasgow-based company XstalBio, has developed tiny particles containing insulin which can be inhaled.

She is due to pick up the Royal Society of Edinburgh's top award for science innovation on Friday.

The society said her work could transform the treatment of many diseases and save countless lives.

Diabetes is not fatal if the condition is managed properly, but if left untreated it can cause nerve damage or blindness.

Many sufferers need to have injections of insulin up to four times a day.

Dr Parker has developed a micro-crystal which can be coated with tiny particles of insulin.

She said: "What we do is make particles which are not unlike Lego bricks, but obviously reduced down to a very small size - about 1,000th the width of a human hair."

She said they were "very stable" and very resistant to conditions like high temperature and humidity, which made them easy to store.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh's Gannochy Trust Innovation Award is described as Scotland's highest accolade for individual achievement in innovation.

Professor Andrew Walker said Dr Parker had come up with a simple idea which was also "intellectually a very satisfactory concept".

"Given its simplicity, it should work," he said.

However, one diabetes charity warned that there was still work to be done.

Earlier this year the body which gives guidance on the use of treatments by the NHS south of the border rejected a diabetes inhaler on cost grounds.

Cost-effective

The drug Exubera, manufactured by Pfizer, would cost more than £1,000 each year for each patient.

Campaigners were disappointed by the draft guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for England and Wales.

Audrey Birt, the director of Diabetes UK Scotland, said the challenges for Dr Parker were to make the treatment cost-effective, portable, accessible and discreet to use.

There was also a need to ensure that users received a consistent and accurate dosage which was not affected by factors such as the user contracting a virus.

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