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Meet Research Grant awardee Gordon

To shine a light on the funding available for diabetes research from ABCD, we're speaking to those who were awarded a Diabetes Care Trust and ABCD Research Grant.

In our first interview we hear from Gordon Sloan, University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who was awarded funding for his project exploring potential brain imaging biomarkers of Painful-Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN). 

What is your project title?

Investigating the efficacy of cerebral bioenergetics as a biomarker for neuropathic pain in diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Can you give us some background on your project and its aims?

Painful-Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (Painful-DPN) is a common complication, which affects up to a quarter of people with diabetes. Unfortunately, the treatments for this condition are generally considered to be inadequate. A key reason for this, is the lack of objective biological measures of neuropathic pain in Painful-DPN. Over a number of years, in Sheffield we have demonstrated how Painful-DPN leads to alterations in brain function. Previous research of mine demonstrated how altered cerebral bioenergetics (suggestive of increased neuronal activity) is present in people with Painful-DPN. 

This project aims to investigate cerebral bioenergetics in key regions of the brain associated with pain perception in people with Painful-DPN (e.g. primary somatosensory cortex, thalamus, insular cortex etc.). We will recruit 50 participants (24 with Painful-DPN; 13 healthy controls; and 13 with diabetes and no DPN) and perform detailed clinical phenotyping (including a battery of neurophysiological assessments) and neuroimaging, using 31-Phosphorus Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, to investigate cerebral bioenergetics. Participants with Painful-DPN will undergo two brain scans, one whilst taking their regular pharmacotherapeutic agents for neuropathic pain and another after these medications have been tapered off and discontinued, to determine whether imaging markers of cerebral bioenergetics are sensitive to changes in pain intensity.

What was you reaction to the grant award?

I was really thrilled to receive the research grant award, my first as a primary applicant. In particular, I am pleased that the ABCD / DCT offered the award for further research into this potentially devastating complication of diabetes. Hopefully, the project can lead to progress in our current understanding and treatment of neuropathic pain in diabetes, and can improve the lives of those with Painful-DPN.

How will this grant award help your career?

The ABCD / DCT research grant is an excellent opportunity for early career researchers in diabetes such as myself. The amount of funding offered is generous, and more than many of the other early career grant research awards. The funding is really important for my career, and completion of the project will lead to publications and hopefully the acquisition of larger grant funds to investigate this potential neuroimaging biomarker of Painful-DPN. My career goal is to be a clinical academic in the field of neuropathy, and this grant will aid me towards this goal. I am grateful to the grant awarding committee and I would encourage other diabetes early career researchers to apply for this research grant award.

Now in its fourth year, applications are open for Research Grants from The Diabetes Care Trust and The Association of British Clinical Diabetologists for high quality clinically based studies costing up to £50,000 relating to the management and care of people with diabetes. Applicants should be in the early stages of their career. 

Learn more about the grants.