Diabetes treatment in 2025: can scientific advances keep pace with prevalence?

Ther Adv Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct;3(5):163-73. doi: 10.1177/2042018812465639.


Despite the known benefits of a healthy lifestyle, many individuals find it hard to maintain such a lifestyle in our modern world, which facilitates sedentary behavior and overeating. As a consequence, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is predicted to increase dramatically over the coming years. Will developments in treatments be able to counteract the resulting impact on morbidity and mortality? The various lines of research can be grouped into three main categories: technological, biological, and pharmacological. Technological solutions are focused on the delivery of insulin and glucagon via an artificial pancreas, and components of the system are already in use, suggesting this option may well be available within the next 10 years. Of the biological solutions, pancreas transplants seem unlikely to be used widely, and islet cell transplants have also been hampered by a lack of appropriate donor tissue and graft survival after transplant. However, significant progress has been made in these areas, and additional research suggests manipulating other cell types to replace beta cells may be a viable option in the longer term. The last category, pharmacological research, appears the most promising for significantly reducing the burden of type 2 diabetes mellitus. In recent years, research has concentrated on reducing blood glucose, and the increasing pace of research has been reflected in a growing number of antidiabetic agents. In the past few years, studies of the complementary approach of protecting cells from the damaging effects of high blood glucose have also been reported, as has research into the control of energy intake and energy expenditure. Evidence from studies of dietary restriction and bariatric surgery suggests it may be possible to reset metabolism to effectively cure diabetes, and research into pharmacological agents that could selectively restore energy balance is currently the most exciting prospect for future treatments for people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Keywords: hypoglycemic agents; obesity; prevalence; translational medical research; type 2 diabetes mellitus.