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Friday, 17 November 2017
Top prize for researcher
02 October 2016

A diabetes expert from our hospital has picked up a top international prize in recognition of the significant contribution he has made in developing a new technique to help diagnose diabetes early and monitor nerve damage.

Dr Sanjeev Sharma, who is a consultant in endocrinology and diabetes, was presented with the GØran Sundkvist prize for clinical research at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Neurodiab conference in Bucharest during September.

It comes following his research using a technique called the LDIFLARE, which represents the culmination of the collective work of several research fellows over the years from Ipswich Hospital’s Diabetes Research Unit. The method sees the skin of the foot heated and scanned with a laser camera to allow precise detection of the small nerve fibre function, including the early stages of nerve damage caused by diabetes. The technique also allows researchers to closely monitor the progression of the condition, as well as the impact which various diabetes interventions have on nerve health.

Dr Sharma and colleagues at the research unit are using the technique with another method which detects nerve fibres in the eye, called corneal confocal microscopy, to further widen the understanding about small nerve fibre damage and its progression. The techniques have proved so effective in diabetes that they have also been used to detect small nerve fibre damage in other conditions including cancer, underactive thyroid and raised fat in the blood.

“I was genuinely surprised when I found out that I had won the award,” said Dr Sharma, who has been involved in the project for the past four years. “To be considered worthy of such an accolade so early in my career is a proud achievement. I must thank my colleague and research mentor Dr Gerry Rayman for his guidance, and the pioneering early work which led to development of this method.

“The success of our research is a result of the hard work and dedication of everyone at our Diabetes Research Unit. Normally, research of this calibre is carried out in big teaching hospitals – we hope that our success will encourage other hospitals to take part in similar research as it demonstrates that it is possible for a district general hospital to also be prominently placed on the research map.

“We are also incredibly grateful to our patients in Suffolk, who often very selflessly agree to take part in research so that they can further contribute to the understanding of different conditions.

“We hope that in the future we can further develop our research method so that this diagnostic technique can be more widely available to healthcare professionals to help detect nerve damage, not only in diabetes but also in other conditions like cancer and underactive thyroid.”

Dr Gerry Rayman, head of Ipswich’s Diabetes Research Unit, said: “This is an enormous achievement for Sanjeev and the Diabetes Research Unit, which was up against major academic units from across the globe. The team’s research could have significant implications for the management of diabetic neuropathy in the future, which could lead to real benefits for patients.”