The identification of new molecular targets that could lead to new treatments for diabetes is an area where proteomics could have a key role. Epidemiological data from the late nineteenth century described diabetes mellitus (from the Greek for 'pass through' and the Latin for 'sweet as honey') as a rather frequent disorder in man, in obese people above 50 years old, in cities and in western countries (Pavy 1894). Even at that time, diabetes was seen as a disease of urban life.
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, is an autoimmune disorder associated with MHC genes (Campbell and Milner 1993). Type 2 diabetes, known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, is a complex multifactorial disease. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of the diabetic population, affects nearly 130 million people and is expected to reach epidemic proportions in the next 10 years (Zimmet and McCarthy 1995; Zimmet 1995). This dramatic increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes was predicted 10 years ago when urbanisation, industrialisation and western habits became increasingly widespread in developing countries. This means that type 2 diabetes is a truly global health problem. It is of high cost and suffering primarily owing to its long-term complications.
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