The Hagopian Lab researches ways to predict and prevent the development of Type 1 diabetes, a disease affecting over one million American children and adults.
Not everyone with genetic risk for Type 1 diabetes develops the disease. Why not? Scientists at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute’s (PNRI) Hagopian Lab believe answers lie in the environment.
The Hagopian Lab is one of six labs participating in an international study following 8,000 children with high genetic risk for Type 1 diabetes. Called the TEDDY Study, “The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young” includes labs in the U.S, Germany, Sweden, and Finland.
The Hagopian Lab also develops population-based newborn screening methods to predict who is at risk. These newborn screening studies involve visionary genetic immunologic and clinical biomarker combinations and their practical, cost-efficient implementation.
Prediction can then be combined with strategies for preventing onset of the disease in those who are at risk. One such approach might be to identify environmental exposures to avoid, such as identifying a virus to allow an immunization strategy, or a food exposure that might be avoided early in life.
Another strategy the lab explores is low-toxicity immune therapies to interrupt the autoimmune response that leads to Type 1 diabetes, which Dr. Hagopian helps test in clinical trials. These studies may help newly diagnosed patients preserve their remaining insulin-producing cells, enabling better management of blood sugar. However, the ultimate goal is to prevent the disease entirely.
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