New Diabetes Test May Predict Which Babies Will Get Type 1 Diabetes

A simple blood test may be the key.

Aug 28, 2020

Newborn babies get screened for a lot of conditions. With a simple blood test doctors can check for genetic, metabolic, and hormone related health issues so that preventive care or treatments can be done. An additional screening may soon be added.

A simple heel-prick could determine if a baby will develop Type 1 diabetes and that would be very helpful for parents and doctors to know.  Type 1 diabetes is caused when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and therefore, cannot regulate blood-sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is linked to age and obesity.

According to The Daily Mail, most children are in their mid-teens before they are diagnosed and four in ten already show dangerous symptoms. That’s because they develop ketoacidosis, when acidic substances called ketones build up in the blood, and this could be avoided if the children are diagnosed earlier.

The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study was conducted at seven international sites and followed over 7,798 children that were considered at high risk of developing the disease for over nine years inorder to find out why some children developed the disease and others didn't.

The data collected was used by researchers at the University of Exeter and the Pacific Northwest Research Institute in Seattle to develop a method that combined multiple factors including genetics, a family history of diabetes, and the count of islet autoantibodies (biomarkers that develop when the pancreas is damaged or not functioning properly) to calculate a risk score according to a news release from University of Exeter.

The research, recently published in Nature Medicine, found that this new approach increased the prediction of which children would develop diabetes. In fact, the scientists told Daily Mail that 75 percent of cases of the disease could potentially be diagnosed by checking the blood for biomarkers.

Dr. Lauric Ferrat at the University of Exeter Medical School, said in the news release: “At the moment, 40 percent 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 that the findings from a routine heel-prick at birth can go a long way to preventing early illness and predict which children will go on to develop the disease later. Earlier diagnosis will also allow families to receive risk counseling to ensure that dangerous complications do not occur. There is currently a trial in Washington State.

The researchers said that they believe this type of approach can also be used to predict the onset of celiac disease. Any diagnostic tools that can help predict these conditions will greatly benefit children around the world.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.