Diabetes Mellitus and Sustainable Development Goals

Facts and figures

Diabetes is now considered a pandemic with a substantial threat to human health around the world. Currently, at least 400 Million people worldwide suffer from Diabetes, with a dark figure of about 10 per cent of the world’s population, as 40 to 60 percent of diabetes cases remain undiagnosed. The increasing number of diabetic people, especially in low- and middle-income countries, is expected to grow alarmingly to more than 600 million cases within the next 30 years, since there are already more than 300 Million people with impaired glucose tolerance, who have a high chance of developing Diabetes in the near future. The most dramatic increase will, according to the International Diabetes Federation, occur in urbanized African, Middle Eastern and South Asian regions, with a rise of up to 156 percent until 2045 [IDF Diabetes Atlas, 8th Edition, 2017]. However, Germany, as a comparatively small country, is currently on rank 9 of total diabetes cases with 7.5 Million cases [IDF, 2017].

This pandemic is a result of an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, which promotes obesity and lack of overall fitness, resulting in not only a health, but a socioeconomic crisis as well. As diabetes is a chronic disease with a progressive nature, it not only proposes a financial threat to the people suffering from it, as yearly costs can exceed 4 000 USD, but it is also a burden to the health care system with more than 700 Billion USD of costs in the US per year [IDF, 2017].

The global burden of diabetes, with an estimated 3 Million deaths a year, and its essential threat to human development, has been recognized by the United Nations in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which wants to – among others – reduce the premature mortality caused by Diabetes by one third and increase access to affordable and effective health care. As Diabetes plays a major role in Cardiovascular Disease and wrongfully or untreated Diabetes can result in the necessity of limp amputation, blindness, neuropathy or kidney failure.

However, Diabetes can be managed very well, if the patients can have access to the right treatment and preventive measures, which includes the necessary promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Together with the iGEM Team Costa Rica we want to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, because after all, iGEM projects generally aim to improve people’s lives while keeping strong contact to their communities. This makes a promotion of the UN’s SDGs an opportunity to take responsibility, as we are very privileged to take part in such a project in the first place.

Overall, the Sustainable Development Goals aim to improve the world’s situation by promoting prosperity, equality, peace and care for the environment in terms of i) no poverty, ii) zero hunger, iii) good health and well-being, iv) quality education, v) gender equality, vi) clean water and sanitation, vii) affordable and clean energy, viii) decent work and economic growth, ix) industry, innovation and infrastructure, ix) reduced inequalities, xi) sustainable cities and communities, xii) responsible consumption and production, xiii) climate action, xiv) life below water, xv) life on land and xvi) peace, justice and strong institutions. Lastly, xvii) Partnerships are the essence of the program. As there are now only 11 years left to reach these goals, we, as teams of iGEM, want to help target these goals more aggressively and promote their fulfilment.

We, Team Tübingen, want to target multiple of these goals. First of all, our new therapeutic strategy aims to increase good health and well-being, also since diabetes is openly recognized by the UN to be a major burden for the world’s health. Secondly, we want to lift the financial burden of the treatment, with the goal to provide a less cost intensive alternative to current treatments and prevent follow-up costs for worsened stages of diabetes. It is important to note, that in low- and middle-income countries less than 30 percent have access to GLP-1 analogue treatment [IDF, 2017], which justifies a new approach in formulating it as a probiotic to increase this margin. Secondly, we have initiated several educational programs and knowledge transfer opportunities, in order to support education in the matter of diabetes and obesity. Also, we hope to drive innovation in therapeutic strategies and, if our project is realized in the future, we might be able to participate in the goal of work and economic growth, as well as industrial infrastructure. With an administration such as a probiotic, we hope to decrease inequalities in treatment, as there are no burdens of a cool chain or cost. Hence, a probiotic could be a viable concept of therapy for economically weak people. To conclude, our iGEM project, a probiotic producing exendin-4 as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, targets a lot of the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations. And we hope to, in cooperation with the iGEM Team of Costa Rica, promote the SDGs within the iGEM community and our team’s community, with the goal of playing a small but important role in reaching the goals in time.

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