Simple genetic test for type 1 diabetes being developed

For many children with type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis only comes after they find themselves hospitalized in life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis. Researchers in Virginia hope to change that.

Scientists at the Center for Public Health Genomics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have developed a test that they think may be able to predict the risk of type 1 diabetes.

Testing has been difficult because there is no single gene responsible for type 1 diabetes. Stephen Rich, PhD, FAHA, director of the Center for Public Health Genomics, says the new test combines the numerous gene variants that play a role in type 1 diabetes and may predict as many as 90% of cases.

Type 1 diabetes affects up to 1 in 300 children, and occurs when the autoimmune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The risk of type 1 diabetes is half genetic and half environmental, according to another paper Rich published in Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity on the role of genetics in type 1 diabetes, but advances in genomic mapping have provided a wealth of data that can be used to predict risk and possibly evaluate treatment efficacy.

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