Researchers from Lund University Diabetes Centre are trying to find out why some diabetics never develop severe or fatal complications.
After only ten years with diabetes, 70 per cent of patients will have some form of kidney damage that may progress to kidney failure. As many suffer from eye complications - some will develop severe visual impairment and two per cent will become blind.
Major diabetic complications include kidney disease (nephropathy), eye damage (retinopathy), heart attacks and stroke.
Valeriya Lyssenko and Peter Nilsson are leading the PROLONG (PROtective genes in diabetes and LONGevity) study which is starting now in Skane with a pilot study of patients with diabetes duration of more than 30 years. At a later stage patients will be recruited from all hospitals and health care centres in Sweden. They will be compared with diabetics who have already developed severe complications despite having had diabetes for less than 15 years.
"The blood vessels and other organs of the body become sugar coated and stiff. It is reminiscent of premature biological ageing", said Nilsson.
The participants will answer questions about their lifestyle and about diseases they, or their closest relatives, may have. Various blood samples, including genetic tests, will be analysed, and close relatives of the participants will also be invited to take part in the study.
"If we can identify factors protecting these veterans from devastating complications, then it might be possible to develop drugs that can do the same thing", said Lyssenko.