Scientists develop a new method which better predicts vulnerability of a child to develop type 1 diabetes

Scientists have developed a new method to predict the likeability of a child developing type 1 diabetes. They combined multiple factors that can contribute to a child developing the disease. The combined risk factors that the scientists used in the study are genetics, clinical factors such as the family history of diabetes, and their count of islet autoantibodies biomarkers known to be present in type 1 diabetes. The research has been published in Nature Medicine and conducted by scientists at the University of Exeter and the Pacific Northwest Research Institute in Seattle.

In the research, scientists followed 7,798 children who were vulnerable to developing type 1 diabetes from birth to a period of nine years. The study is named The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY). The study has been funded primarily by the US National Institutes of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the charity JDRF.

The findings of the research suggest that the new combined approach is an effective way of making a better estimation of which children would likely develop type 1 diabetes. The study findings may improve diabetes risk counselling of families. The new approach has doubled the efficiency of programmes to screen newborns which will now significantly help in the prevention of ketoacidosis,  a deadly condition that develops due to type 1 diabetes. In this condition, insulin deficiency causes the blood to become too acidic.

Identifying children who are more vulnerable to developing the disease will also benefit in the process of clinical trials of potential drugs against it.

Dr Lauric Ferrat at the University of Exeter Medical School said, “At the moment, 40 per cent of children who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes have the severe complication of ketoacidosis. For the very young this is life-threatening, resulting in long intensive hospitalizations and in some cases even paralysis or death. Using our new combined approach to identify which babies will develop diabetes can prevent these tragedies, and ensure children are on the right treatment pathway earlier in life, meaning better health.”

Professor William Hagopian of the Pacific Northwest Research Institute said, “We’re really excited by these findings. They suggest that the routine heel prick testing of babies done at birth could go a long way towards preventing early sickness as well as predicting which children will get type 1 diabetes years later. We’re now putting this to the test in a trial in Washington State. We hope it will ultimately be used internationally to identify the condition as early as possible, and to power efforts to prevent the disease.”

Researchers are of the opinion that the combined approach can also be used to estimate the onset of other diseases with a strong genetic component identifiable in childhood, such as celiac disease.

Sanjoy Dutta, JDRF Vice President of Research said, “We know that while genetics have a strong correlation as a risk factor for family members to develop T1D, most newly diagnosed individuals do not have a known family history. JDRF has been exploring the non-genetic, environmental risk factors that trigger T1D to help develop treatments to forestall or prevent disease onset.”

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