Press Release

Agreement sees Dundee’s diabetes expertise exported to Afghanistan

Published on 27 January 2020

The University of Dundee has signed an agreement that will see it work to improve outcomes for diabetes patients in Afghanistan while training local researchers to carry out future studies into the disease.

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The University of Dundee has signed an agreement that will see it work to improve outcomes for diabetes patients in Afghanistan while training local researchers to carry out future studies into the disease.

Dundee’s Global Health Research Unit will collaborate with the Moraa Educational Complex (MEC) to investigate the incidence of diabetes in patients attending the outpatient department of the Kabul hospital with the aim of offering sustainable solutions for individuals with the disease.

The new collaboration marks an expansion for INSPIRED, a £7 million Dundee-led project that seeks to improve diabetes outcomes in India.

INSPIRED researchers are working to better understand who gets diabetes, how it progresses, why some people respond better than others to treatments, and why some patients develop complications.

To do this, they need to study how genes influence susceptibility to type 2 diabetes in different populations, and Afghanistan's location, history, and diverse ethnic groups present a unique opportunity to explore multiple genetic variants in patients with diabetes.

Professor Colin Palmer, Chair of Pharmacogenomics at the University and lead of the INSPIRED study, said, “It is very exciting to be using Scottish diabetes expertise to fight the disease in other countries.

“Lifestyle factors obviously significantly enhance a person’s risk of getting diabetes but we are taking a genetic approach in this collaboration because very little is known about the genetics of the people of Afghanistan.

“Most current knowledge on how diabetes develops, how patients respond to medications and the causes of medical complications that arise are largely derived from studies on white European ancestry populations. This is despite the fact that diabetes in Europeans is very different to diabetes in other populations.

“After meeting Dr Amir we decide would use some of the lessons from our work in India to go into the Afghani healthcare system and see how we might define the situation in Afghanistan and develop specific ways of managing diabetes in the country.”

The Moraa Educational Complex is a female-focused project funded by Dr Azizullah Amir through private investment and capital contributions made by him and his family. Officially inaugurated in May 2016, the MEC aims to address the need for a safe educational environment for Afghani woman from kindergarten through to adulthood with a focus on medical training, helping to address the need for female healthcare workers in the country. 

After signing the agreement with Dundee, Dr Amir, who will present his work in Afghanistan to the Scottish Parliament later this year, said, “Diabetes is a big problem in Afghanistan. We know it is one of highest causes of mortality but we don’t have a lot of data beyond that. In many cases the diabetes remains undiagnosed because it is not a well-known disease there.

“We are committed to working in this field to bring new insights to present to policy makers and this partnership with the University of Dundee will help with that. I believe this is the first time in our country that anyone has done this kind of systematic and highly needed research into patients with diabetes and it will also provide many opportunities for training, capacity building and data collection. It represents a great opportunity for our students to get involved in research.”

In 2017, the University of Dundee was awarded a £7 million grant from the National Institute of Health Research Global Health programme to establish INSPIRED, a major new Scotland-India clinical partnership to combat diabetes.

The NIHR Global Health Research programme supports high-quality applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding.

INSPIRED sees Dundee’s world-leading expertise in the use of medical records to deliver improved care in diabetes ‘twinned’ with the large patient data set (covering over 400,000 Indian diabetic patients) collected by Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centres, the largest clinical network of diabetes care in India.

Notes to editors

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.


Grant Hill

Press Officer

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Story category Academic collaboration