Study launched to identify babies at risk of developing type 2 diabetes

by Sarita Sheth on October 18, 2012

Higher risk for babies born to mothers suffering with diabetes during pregnancy

Scientists are undertaking a research programme to attempt to identify babies at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Dr Karen Logan, based at Imperial College London, has been awarded a Research Training Fellowship by children’s charity Action Medical Research to investigate how a mother’s diabetes during pregnancy may affect her baby.

Up to 40,000 babies are born to mothers who suffered from diabetes during pregnancy each year in the UK. ‘I think that prevention is key to reducing the burden of type 2 diabetes,’ said Dr Logan.

Babies born to mothers who suffer from diabetes during pregnancy are at least four times more likely than other babies to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. However, there is currently no way to predict which of these babies will eventually develop diabetes.

Although type 2 diabetes is most typically diagnosed during adulthood, it is now more frequently being diagnosed in children.

The research involves analysing babies’ ‘metabolic fingerprints’ and could take researchers an important step closer to the ultimate goals of prediction and prevention for this increasing problem.

The condition has serious long term health consequences, bringing an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, vision loss, and kidney disease. It also impacts on the day to day quality of life of those children affected.

‘Learning to cope with type 2 diabetes is a big task for any child or young person. High blood glucose can make children feel unwell and cause difficulties with concentration. The children may need to monitor their blood glucose, consider their food choices and remember any medications or insulin injections,’ explained Dr. Logan.

‘Simple things, such as playing sports, or going on a school trip, may need careful planning. Type 2 diabetes can make children feel different from their classmates, it can cause emotional and behavioural challenges, and it can lead to poor confidence and low mood,’ she added.

Dr Logan is comparing babies born to mothers who developed diabetes during pregnancy with mothers who did not. This means analysing the babies’ ‘metabolic fingerprints’ using sophisticated techniques to assess the pattern of hundreds of naturally occurring substances in urine.

‘The babies are also having short, 15 minute MRI scans, while asleep, so that I can assess how much body fat they have and where it’s located, as well as the amount of fat in the liver,’ she said.

‘My long term aim is to find ways to identify children at risk of type 2 diabetes and develop interventions that reduce children’s chances of developing the condition,’ she added.

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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