Researchers find genetic clue that might predict onset of type 1 diabetes

28 Mar 2017

Image: harisn/Shutterstock

A collaborative effort among Irish researchers has led to the discovery of a biomarker that might help us to predict the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that leads to a person’s immune system destroying the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. It affects thousands of people in Ireland and millions globally.

Each week, up to five children and teenagers are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Ireland, while as many as 10pc are affected by a late diagnosis, resulting in critical illness.

Now however, a significant discovery by Irish researchers working with the 3U Diabetes Consortium has identified a genetic biomarker that could allow us to predict the onset of the disease.

Publishing its findings in the scientific journal Diabetic Medicine, the team was made up of researchers from Dublin City University, Maynooth University and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

In the paper, the team discussed the presence of a substance called 12-HETE in blood samples provided by newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes patients.

Crucially, this substance was not found in patient samples where the condition was already established.

Potential screening of population

By detecting elevated levels of 12-HETE in a person’s blood, the researchers hope that it can ultimately be used, in conjunction with other biomarkers, to develop a screening test for type 1 diabetes for the general population.

Discovering that someone has the autoimmune disease as early as possible is incredibly important to prevent the development of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), the build-up of acids called ketones in the bloodstream.

Last year, two major breakthroughs were achieved in the field of diabetic research that could fundamentally change how people living with type 1 diabetes are treated.

Currently, those living with the condition need to inject themselves daily with insulin to prevent DKA.

However, researchers proved that an alternative treatment of cell transplants could be effective, eliminating the need to take immunosuppressant drugs that gradually lose effect over time.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic