Scientific Breakthrough Finds Way to Predict Type 1 Diabetes in Children

by Barbara Hewitt on March 6, 2015

Scientists have discovered that it is possible to predict the development of type 1 diabetes by measuring the presence of auto antibodies in the blood.

A new analysis of a study involving 8,600 children from Sweden, the United States, Germany and Finland found that it can detect whether the immune system has begun to break down the body’s own insulin cells.

researcherStudy leader Professor Ake Lernmakr from the Lund University in Sweden said they found that auto antibodies often appear during the first few years of life.

He explained that antibodies are part of the body’s immune system and the presence of antibodies in the blood is a sign that the immune system has reacted to an intruder such as a virus or a bacteria. Sometimes, the immune system mutinies and attacks the body.

Auto antibodies are a sign of an autoimmune disease and form markers indicating that an attack is underway, for example on the body’s own insulin cells.

The new findings show that three are different ways to predict the development of type 1 diabetes. First, if the autoantibody first discovered attacks insulin. Secondly, if the first autoantibody targets GAD65, a protein inside the insulin producing cells and thirdly if both autoantibodies are first found together.

In the study some 40% of the children had already developed diabetes. Some 6.5% had their first autoantibody before the age of six. Some 44% only had an autoantibody against insulin and most of them had this by the age of one or two.

The research also found that 38% had GAD65 autoantibodies and the numbers increased until the age of two and then remained constant. While in 14% of cases both autoantibodies were found at the same time, with a peak at the age of two to three.

The hereditary risk of type 1 diabetes determined which autoantibody the children had. However, it is still not known what causes the immune system to start attacking the body’s own insulin cells to start with. One theory is that a viral infection could be the trigger.

‘It is possible that there are two different diseases involved. Perhaps one virus triggers the autoantibodies against insulin and another one the autoantibodies against GAD65,’ said Lernmark.

The parents of the children have kept regular, detailed food diaries, submitted blood and stool samples, nail samples and information about illnesses and medication since they were born. When autoantibodies are detected in a child’s blood, the researchers begin the sizeable task of analysing all the material in the hunt for what it is that may have caused the immune system to mutiny.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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