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Manchester socks it to diabetes

18th October 2018

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A Manchester Science Festival art installation containing seven thousand socks will highlight the grim annual toll of diabetes-related limb amputation - and the city’s pioneering steps against the condition.

Artist Christine Wilcox-Baker

Built using socks donated by Diabetic UK support groups and lower limb amputees, Seven Thousand Feet will raise awareness of the risk of amputation presented by ulcers that can go undetected due to nerve damage and poor circulation. Patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes risk unknowingly developing ulcerated pressure sores, with more than 8,500 lower limb amputations each year in the UK among people with diabetes.

However, Manchester Science Festival will also showcase the ground-breaking steps being taken by academics and scientists in Manchester to prevent amputations and fight diabetes.

Breakthrough projects include international research into apps and pressure sensors capable of detecting diabetic foot ulcers, and a driving simulator that uses sensors on the accelerator pedal to judge whether diabetic patients’ driving is affected, all of which have been developed or clinically trialled by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Seven Thousand Feet was devised by artist Christine Wilcox-Baker in consultation with Dr Martin Rutter, Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Physician, University of Manchester, and clinical lead for Manchester Diabetes Centre, Manchester RoyaI Infirmary.

It is part of an exhibition of artwork inspired by the fight against diabetes and can be seen at Manchester’s Central Library throughout the Manchester Science Festival and beyond (Thursday, 18 October to Wednesday, 14 November). Other work has been created shown by Manchester Metropolitan University art undergraduates.

Events showcasing Manchester’s expertise in fighting the debilitating impact of diabetes will take place at Manchester’s Central Library and Science and Industry Museum (See below and editor’s notes for full listings).

Sessions will allow visitors to learn more about scientific and technological advances in diabetes research and include a “Meet the amputation surgeon” session with Mr Naseer Ahmad, leader of the Manchester Amputation Reduction Strategy.

Artist Christine Wilcox-Baker and amputation surgeon Doctor Naseer Ahmad, head of the Manchester Amputation Reduction Strategy, launch Seven Thousand Feet at Central Library, Manchester.

Christine Wilcox-Baker said: “While the message delivered by Seven Thousand Feet is deliberately stark, Type 2 diabetes is often preventable through changes in lifestyle and diet. I am delighted to be helping raise awareness of the pioneering scientific work being done in Manchester to reduce the impact of diabetes.”

Clare Howarth, Head of the North at Diabetes UK, said: “Diabetes-related amputations are on the rise. Every hour someone with diabetes has a toe, foot or leg amputated in the UK, yet with the right care and swift action many of these can be avoided.

“When you have diabetes, even something small like a blister can lead to an amputation but most complications can be prevented by knowing the signs to look for. It is vital that people with diabetes are aware of the risks and get their feet checked regularly and should you have any concerns speak to your healthcare professional immediately.”

Best Foot Forward

A highlight of the Manchester Science Festival will be Platform for Investigation: Best Foot Forward at the Science and Industry, Manchester (Monday 22 October 2018, 10.30am to 4pm), where Manchester academics, clinicians and scientists will showcase ground breaking approaches to tackling diabetes-related issues.

Professor Dilwyn Marple-Horvat, Professor of Motor Neuroscience, Musculoskeletal Science and Sports Medicine Research Centre, Manchester Metropolitan University, has developed an approach that makes it easier for people with diabetes to know whether their driving is starting to be affected.

His research investigates how the brain uses sensory information to guide what we do. Recent work has focused on algorithm-based automatic in-car detection of impaired driving due to medical conditions such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, with the aim of reducing the crash statistics associated with any impairment.

Fellow Manchester Metropolitan University researchers have developed an app to help medical professionals capture consistent photographs of the underside of diabetics’ feet to detect foot ulcers and monitor treatment.

Dr Moi Hoon Yap, a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, and Professor Neil Reeves, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics - created FootSnap to run on an iPad tablet device.

With the aid of a tripod and a portable LED spotlight, FootSnap assists clinicians to capture uniform images of the bottom of someone’s feet no matter what time or place.

It therefore allows changes in a patient’s foot health to be more easily tracked and compared over time, with the aim of leading to a timely diagnosis of abnormalities or disease.

FootSnap, developed with the help of PhD researchers Katie Chatwin and Manu Goyal, guides medical professionals to orientate and align the patient’s foot in such a way as to build up a portfolio of uniform images for comparison to assist diagnosis and prognosis.

The same team also worked on a Diabetes UK funded study, in collaboration with a Canadian company (Orpyx Medical Technologies Inc.) to test a commercially available early warning system on clinical trial participants with diabetes who have a high risk of developing foot ulcers, and found it reduced the incidence of foot ulcers emerging or recurring by more than 70 per cent.

Led by Neil Reeves, and funded by Diabetes UK, the research team at Manchester Metropolitan University equipped trial participants with shoe inserts that use ultra-thin sensors to monitor the pressure on the underside of the foot and provide feedback via a smartwatch worn on patient’s wrist.

The smart shoe insole system used by the researchers was the US Food and Drug Administration-approved SurroSense Rx® developed by sensor-based advanced wound care product manufacturer Orpyx Medical Technologies Inc.

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