Grant paves the way for a new diabetic gastroparesis treatment

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Dr Vincent Ho from Western Sydney University's School of Medicine with Anneleise Alarcon, who is a long-term sufferer of diabetic gastroparesis. "This device could change lives," Ms Alarcon said.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Dr Vincent Ho from Western Sydney University's School of Medicine with Anneleise Alarcon, who is a long-term sufferer of diabetic gastroparesis. "This device could change lives," Ms Alarcon said.

Western Sydney University researchers are investigating a form of treatment for diabetic gastroparesis, after being awarded an innovation grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

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 received $150,000.

Dr Ho, who teaches at the Blacktown/Mt Druitt Clinical School and 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,” Dr Ho said.

“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.”

He said 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,” he said.

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 per cent of patients) and many patients will not respond to conventional therapies and can become dependent upon feeding tubes for nutrition.

Anneleise Alarcon is a long-term sufferer of diabetic gastroparesis. She developed the condition eight 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 said.

“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.”

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

“I’m really impressed by Dr Ho and the JDRF for making this project a reality,” she said.

“This device could change lives...as it’s very difficult to live with this illness”

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