Irish scientists are working on a breakthrough in diabetes pills that could save patients from their painful injections.
A new TTR documentary called Bittersweet shows Professor David Brayden of CURRAM and his team at the UCD Veterinary Hospital conducting laboratory tests to make insulin available in a pill.
Professor Brayden said there has been a tremendous increase in diabetes in Ireland in the last decade, mainly due to a sedentary western diet.
"The increase in diabetes is probably ten times higher in the last decade," said Professor Brayden, principal investigator at Advanced Drug Delivery, UCD.
"Most of these will be type 2 diabetes and diabetes really originates in lifestyle, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time and not doing enough exercise."
He warned of the expected increase in chronic diseases among young people with rising rates of obesity.
He said, "They are predicting that up to one-third or half of our children will become obese by the time they reach their twenties. Obese is a very rigid definition.
"The link between obesity and type 2 diabetes is very strong, so we know this puts more pressure on the system.
"When I was a kid, we ran out the whole summer, but now the kids are in front of PCs and their phones all the time and unless they are doing an organized sport, they really do not participate.
"That's why there's an effort to promote lifestyle choices in children and adults because they need to believe in giving the right foods to children at a very early age."
The documentary – part of a joint program of the CUMR Center for Medical Device Research at NUI Galway and the Galway Film Center program – will air on Wednesday on World Diabetes Day.
Typical treatment for Type 1 diabetics includes daily injections, while the initial treatment with Type 2 is focused on slowing the disease through exercise and diet, with patients later moving on to needles.
Professor David Brayden of CURRAM and his team at the UCD Veterinary Hospital are working to make oral insulin possible because he believes patients are more open to taking tablets than injecting.
"We know why inhaled insulin has been achieved, we know patients prefer routes other than injection.
"If type 2 diabetics received insulin injected earlier into their illness, the results are actually better for the patient.
"But these patients tend to be late because it's a great psychological leap to say that I'm going to take injections for the rest of my life.
"Even if we could have a fast-acting insulin pill, that would be a great achievement and then the best would be to try and avoid injections completely where we are able to give long-acting insulin pills."
He said that using nanotechnology or placing medications in tiny particles in a capsule tablet mean they can be placed directly into the intestinal wall and bypassing other organs.
He said: "Patients usually take subcutaneous injections of insulin, which means that organs outside the liver, their intended target, will receive high concentrations of insulin they do not need.
"This will lead to side effects such as weight gain and other undesirable events later in life.
He added, "We do not conduct clinical trials, but the formulation can be used by doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
"The idea is that they will test them on diabetic patients."
Professor Derek O'Keeffe, a medical consultant at Galway University Hospital and NUI Galway, said that Bittersweet shows the silent burden of chronic diseases in young patients and their families.
He said, "As a physician, my role is to help patients on this journey and empower them to manage their medical conditions, taking advantage of the latest innovations so they can live their better lives."
Suvi Coffey, the mother of the Dublin child, Rosie, tells the documentary that she will not let type 1 diabetes affect her daughter, Rosie's life.
"Her life will generally be the same as any child her age, and as she goes on, I think she will be stronger and a little tougher. She's an incredible little girl, incredible and strong. "
Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes will air on RTÉ 1 on Wednesday, November 14 at 11.10.