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Researchers set to narrow in on data to understand determinants of type 1 diabetes

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Researchers working on a major type 1 diabetes research study are beginning to narrow in on data collected from participants who have developed type 1 diabetes since the study began.

The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) trial started in 2003. The team has been studying nearly 9,000 children and their families to understand more about the autoimmune condition.

The TEDDY study was launched to find out which factors are associated with a greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes. To do this, the research team recruited children of up to 4 months of age with a close relative that has type 1 diabetes.

Infants with a close relative with type 1 diabetes have a higher genetic risk of developing the condition too. This allows the researchers to investigate whether the presence of different environmental factors may influence the likelihood of developing type 1.

The study recruited infant participants over a number of years. Some of those infants will be 15 years old this year, which is when the first phase of monitoring will stop. The average age of participants at the moment is 11. The researchers are keen to follow the participants into adulthood if they receive consent to do so.

Dr Jin-Xiong She, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Genomic Medicine has been leading the work and says they are on the brink of finding something big.

He said: “The next five years is the time to put the puzzle together. We are working on a new test that may analyse hundreds of genes that we think will be more accurate, more predictive.”

There are two peak age ranges, at which type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed. The first peak of higher diagnosis rates comes when children are aged between two and four. The second peak is between 12 and 15.

Parents of the children were asked to keep a detailed diary on everything related to their child’s health, including vaccinations and whether the child takes over-the-counter medications. Nail, stool and blood samples were also collected throughout the course of the study.

Dr She said: “How to predict risk is an important question, but the main question of TEDDY is what can we do about that risk?”

The researchers are looking for autoantibodies which show that the child’s immune system has started to target the cells that produce insulin. The presence of autoantibodies can often lead to the development of type 1 diabetes.

However, they have also discovered that in some young children, autoantibodies disappear. The team are keen to investigate whether the autoantibodies reappear when those children reach adolescence.

Diane Hopkins, the TEDDY research manager, said the trial could not continue without the commitment from the families involved.

She said: “They want to help us better understand what is happening and they want to know what is happening. They have become part of the extended family.”



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