Tasmanian Dr Stephen Myers continues research aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes

05 Dec 2018

Jessica Willard – The Examiner, Launceston

University of Tasmania biomedical science lecturer Dr Stephen Myers’ latest study explores the zinc activation of the enzymes responsible for insulin signalling.

With support from the Clifford Craig Foundation, Dr Myers aims to target the clinical prevention of insulin resistance, before a person progresses to type 2 diabetes.

“Insulin resistance can occur up to a decade before the development of type 2 diabetes and it is totally reversible,” he said.

“If you find out you are insulin resistant, with proper dieting and exercise, you can reverse it and live normally.

“There is a window of opportunity at this early stage of insulin resistance that is crucial. That is where we need to be working.”

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition where the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin.

Cases of type 2 diabetes are increasing globally and approaching pandemic levels. In Australia alone up to 500,000 people are estimated to be living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

With complications including blindness, amputation and heart disease, Dr Myers said better preventative measures needed to be brought to the forefront.

“Type two diabetes is a major chronic disease that is escalating out of control. But the real problem with type 2 diabetes is that it causes so many other diseases and disordered states,” he said.

“Most diabetics, 85 per cent will die from cardiovascular disease – and it’s preventable. There’s medication that keeps people who are type 2 diabetic in check, but medication is not enough.

“Because unless you change your lifestyle, you are going to rely on those medications for the rest of your life.”

Dr Myers was one of eight recipients recently announced for the Clifford Craig Foundation’s 2019 medical research grants.

Building on his previous research, he said collaboration was key in addressing what remains one of the biggest challenges to the state’s health system.

“Diabetes is big around the world, but Tasmania is particularly vulnerable,” he said.

“We have a lot of lower socio-economic populations and a lack of infrastructure.

“There is also mental illness and a whole range of psychological factors that also plays a role. All of these things together makes it a really complex disease.

“It is going to take collaborations of not just us working at this molecular level, but it’s psychology, policy – it’s a whole range of governmental things that need to be addressed as well.”