Type 1 diabetes found to be two distinct conditions depending on age

Children who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes under the age of seven have a different form of the condition compared with those diagnosed aged 13 or above, new research has shown.

The new study, conducted at the University of Exeter, has shown for the first time that children who were diagnosed under seven years old do not process insulin properly and the cells that make it are quickly destroyed.

Surprisingly, those who are older at diagnosis (aged 13 or over) often continue to produce normal insulin; findings which reignite important questions about whether these “dormant” insulin-producing cells could be reinvigorated to work more effectively.

In its paper, the Exeter team has suggested new names for the two distinct endotypes: Type 1 Diabetes Endotype 1 (T1DE1) for that diagnosed in the youngest children, and Type 1 Diabetes Endotype 2 (T1DE2) for those who are older at diagnosis.

Professor Noel Morgan, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “We’re extremely excited to find evidence that type 1 diabetes is two separate conditions: T1DE1 and T1DE 2. The significance of this could be enormous in helping us to understand what causes the illness, and in unlocking avenues to prevent future generations of children from getting type 1 diabetes. It might also lead to new treatments, if we can find ways to reactivate dormant insulin-producing cells in the older age group. This would be a significant step towards the holy grail to find a cure for some people.”

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