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Scientists developed a way to screen infants for type 1 diabetes

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Posted April 10, 2018

People are born with some conditions even though diagnosis doesn‘t come immediately. Scientists from the University of Queensland have developed a method to identify infants who will grow to develop type 1 diabetes. This will lead to better ways to conduct screenings in order to identify children at the highest risk and start treating them immediately.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but special treatments can help prevent complications. Image credit: Reversing Your Diabetes Today via Wikimedia

Scientists analysed the data collected over 10 years from two cohorts of children at risk of type 1 diabetes. They found that there is a seven-gene expression signature in infants in the first year of life. This information can be combined with children’s genetic score. All this information together allows doctors to identify those who are at the highest risk of developing type 1diabetes early in life. This is quite an achievement, because most children who receive type 1 diabetes diagnosis have no family history. Scientists think that population screening could reduce life threatening complications before the diagnosis.

There are specific antibodies that are linked to development of the type 1 diabetes. This new screening methods relies on looking at a child’s gene activation pattern early in life. Scientists were able identify those children who will progress to develop these two antibodies , which will lead them to developing the condition. These antibodies are well-known indicators of future type 1diabetes, but they are so infrequent in the general population that only children from high-risk families get screened. As a result, a lot of children who are facing pretty much inevitable diabetes diagnosis, do not get treatment early. Scientists developed a simple system to screen low-risk children – children from high-risk families are still going to get more extensive monitoring.

Identifying children who are at the highest risk level could help avoiding certain complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a medical emergency. Dr Mark Harris, paediatric endocrinologist and one of the scientists from the study, said: “In children who are part of a monitoring program, the incidence of diabetic ketoacidosis is less than five per cent. Currently we’re seeing up to 40 per cent of children presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis. Through population screening we’d be able to reduce that dramatically, while trialling preventive strategies”.

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes –patients have to rely on daily insulin to control their blood sugar levels. However, if it is diagnosed early a treatment can at least help prevent some life threatening complications.

 

Source: University of Queensland

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