From bedside to bench: Grant paves the way for a new diabetic gastroparesis treatment


Western Sydney University researchers are investigating a form of treatment for diabetic gastroparesis, after being awarded awarded contract seed funding from the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (T1DCRN).

The T1DCRN, an initiative led by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) (opens in a new window) and funded by a Special Research Initiative through the Australian Research Council (ARC) (opens in a new window), have awarded $150,000 to principal investigator Dr Vincent Ho from the University's School of Medicine and his team of researchers in the "new endoscopic device for diabetic gastroparesis" project.

Dr Ho, who is a specialist in gastrointestinal motility disorders, says the grant is an opportunity to take a clinical problem "from bedside to bench."

"As a result of this grant, we are able to take a clinical issue into the laboratory in order to engineer a solution," says Dr Ho.

"We will be investigating the use of a new endoscopic device for the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis – which is a vexing clinical problem. This would be in the form of a uniquely designed stent that aims to better empty food contents through the pylorus.

"Treatment for sufferers of severe diabetic gastroparesis is currently very limited. We are hopeful that this grant can produce a tangible outcome to aid patients suffering from gastroparesis."

Dr Ho frequently sees patients with gastroparesis where the stomach is paralysed leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and early fullness. In severe cases, symptoms can be intractable and unresponsive to medications.

Gastroparesis is common in patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (up to 40% of patients) and many patients will not respond to conventional therapies and can become dependent upon feeding tubes for nutrition.

 Dr Vincent Ho (left) and Anneliese Alarcon (right).

Anneliese Alarcon, a local resident from the Illawara region, is a long-term sufferer of diabetic gastroparesis. She developed the condition ten years ago and has had her whole life altered to cater to the symptoms of her illness.

"'My condition is caused by damage to the vagus nerve in my stomach which causes the stomach muscles to stop working,'' she says.

''During flare-ups, the usual signals from the stomach to the brain stop connecting, so the brain doesn't know there's nothing left to vomit. So I can throw up for hours, days, for over a week. It's extremely exhausting.

"Since contracting this condition, I have had to quit my full time career and I feel like I am constantly in and out of hospital."

Anneliese is ecstatic to hear that Dr Ho is developing a device for treatment of diabetic gastroparesis.

"I am really impressed by Dr Ho and the JDRF for making this project a reality," she says.

"This device could change lives. I support it completely as it is very difficult to live with this illness"

Read more about Anneliese's story at The Tube Fed Mum (opens in a new window).

3 May 2017
Emily Lam, Media Assistant