New hope from findings for patients with type 1 diabetes

It has been revealed by Exeter scientists that kids diagnosed with diabetes before the age of seven tend to develop a more dangerous form of the disease than that seen in teens. Their research could help develop a new vaccine that supports children to prevent against diabetes.

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Professor Noel Morgan and Dr Sarah Richardson, leaders of the study, and colleagues carried out analyzing 100 pancreas samples from patients that were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes briefly before they died. The result shows that kids diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of seven undergo insulitis, an inflammation which exterminates almost all the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. On the contrary, those who are diagnosed as teenagers or older maintain large numbers of beta cells, despite malfunctioning.

Richardson, a JDRF career development fellow, said that those samples were exceedingly important as we didn’t understand the underlying triggering process in these individuals, so it’s critical for scientists to actually look inside the pancreas and find out the problem. However, the pancreas itself is an inaccessible organ.

According to Richardson, these findings have shown that individual persons who are diagnosed earlier have an extremely different disease profile from those that are diagnosed older, which is important to implicate potential treatments for them. As those diagnosed younger might benefit more from immunotherapeutic therapies, meanwhile, those that are diagnosed older might need apply different therapies that reactivate their sleeping beta cells as well as apply immunotherapeutic drugs spontaneously to avoid reactivations of an immune response.

According to Morgan, it’s usually thought that when patients get type 1 diabetes, they will lost nearly 90 percent of insulin producing cells in their pancreas. However, it might not be true in the case of younger children as a significant number of beta cells are retained. That might mean that if those cells are reactivated, those patients could be treated better. These findings have important implications for the younger group as it might be possible to prevent the disease on those who might get diabetic, Morgan added.

According to type 1 diabetes charity Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which part backed the research, a kid diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five experiences 19,000 insulin injections together with 50,000 finger-prick blood tests before they reach 18.

By understanding the trigger, it may be possible to develop a vaccine to prevent the disease process as well as target the specific immune cells causing the disease by using a different kind of vaccine.

The research, which received European Union support, was published in the journal Diabetes.

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