New Type 1 Diabetes Breakthrough

By Mikael Häggström. When using this image in external works, it may be cited as follows:  Häggström, Mikael. "Medical gallery o

A new study reveals people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of 7, may suffer the most. However, there is still hope for teenagers who retain a larger number of beta cells that are damaged from the disease. Cells, which at one time were thought to have gone through the lysis process are actually just dormant, according to the study researchers. This new study could be the breakthrough which opens the door to new treatment, if these cells can be reactivated.

The Study

Children who are diagnosed with diabetes before the age of seven years old have a more aggressive type of the disease than a teenager, new research has discovered. The team found the progression of the disease is extremely different in those who receive a diagnosis as teenagers or later in life.

A condition known as insulitis, which is characterized by inflammation, kills off nearly all of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of a young child. However, teenagers are found to retain a large number of beta cells at diagnosis, although these cells don’t work like they should.
The discovery was made by a team of scientists from the University of Exeter Medical School who said their findings could lead to new and improved treatment options. The team worked with the University of Oslo and the network of Pancreatic Organ Donors to analyze the biggest collection of biobanked pancreas samples from individuals with type 1 diabetes.

Professor Noel Morgan, lead author of the study said, “This is incredibly exciting, and could open the doors to new treatments for young people who develop diabetes. It was previously thought that teenagers with type 1 diabetes had lost around 90 percent of their beta cells but, by looking in their pancreas, we have discovered that this is not true. In fact, those diagnosed in their teens still have many beta cells left-this suggests that the cells are dormant, but not dead."

Morgan went on to further state, “If we can find a way to reactivate these cells so that they resume insulin release, we may be able to slow or even reverse the progression of this terrible disease.”
The study provides the first clear cut evidence of the impact of type 1 diabetes diagnosis on children before they reach primary school age. In the United Kingdom alone, approximately 30,000 youngsters have type 1 diabetes and diagnosing the disease in younger age groups is rapidly escalating.

A child who is diagnosed with the disease before the age of five years old faces up to 19,000 insulin shots and 50,000 finger prick blood sugar tests, before becoming an adult.

Conclusion to the Study

In the future, it will be very important to assess whether young children may benefit from approaches, as they could have a more aggressive form of the disease. Co-author of the study, Dr. Sarah Richardson said,” For trials to be effective, we have to understand the underlying causes of the disease. Until now, most research has been carried out on animal models. While that’s extremely valuable, there are clear differences in human pathology.”

She further stated, “Here in Exeter, we now have this incredible resource of a unique biobank of human samples from people with type 1 diabetes, which means we’re able to see what’s really going on in the human body.”

The study was funded by the European Union and the type 1 diabetes charity, JDRF, and the results are published in the online journal, Diabetes.


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