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New Test Better Predicts Which Babies Will Develop Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Hagopian

“We’re really excited by these findings. They suggest that the routine heel-prick testing of babies done at birth could go a long way towards preventing early sickness as well as predicting which children will get type 1 diabetes years later.”

— Bill Hagopian, MD, PhD, PNRI Principal Scientist

New Test Better Predicts Which Babies Will Develop Type 1 Diabetes

A new approach to predicting which babies will develop type 1 diabetes (T1D) — which could help them avoid life-threatening complications — is closer to becoming part of routine testing for newborns.

The Hagopian lab, located at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute (PNRI), is part of a pioneering international study following more than 8,000 children with increased genetic risk for developing T1D, known as the TEDDY Study. The study found that a combined-risk score more accurately predicts which babies will go on to develop T1D in childhood. The results were recently published in Nature Medicine.

Dr. Hagopian giving a TEDDY Clinic participant a tour at PNRI.

Preventing Complications

Scientists used the TEDDY data to develop a method of combining multiple factors that could influence whether a child is likely to develop type 1 diabetes. This approach uses genetics, clinical factors such as family history of diabetes, and the presence of certain biomarkers known to be implicated in T1D.

The combined-risk score led to doubled efficiency in screening newborns to prevent the potentially deadly condition of ketoacidosis — a complication of T1D in which insulin deficiency causes the blood to become too acidic. Currently, 40% of children with T1D develop ketoacidosis. The new approach may also improve diabetes risk counseling for families and facilitate clinical trials for promising drugs.

“We’re now putting this to the test in a trial in Washington state,” said William Hagopian, MD, PhD, director of diabetes research at PNRI and co-author of the paper. “We hope it will ultimately be used internationally to identify the condition as early as possible and to power efforts to prevent the disease.”

Diabetes Research at PNRI

PNRI researchers are leaders in studying the genetic and environmental risk factors that lead to T1D. Earlier this year, the Hagopian lab also published research on the link between enteroviruses and an increased risk of developing T1D.

Learn more about Dr. Hagopian’s innovative research.

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