"Weighing" In On A Diabetes Discovery



FLORIDA - BACKGROUND:  Type 1 diabetes, affecting 5% of people with diabetes, is usually diagnosed in young adults and children.  It was previously known as juvenile diabetes.  In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin.  Insulin is a hormone needed to transform starches, sugar, and other food into energy.  In most cases of type 1 diabetes, people need to inherit risk factors from both parents.  However, genes alone are not enough to trigger the disease.  For example, identical twins have identical genes.  One twin can have type 1 diabetes and the other has only a 50% chance of inheriting it also.  Researchers believe that a predisposition to the disease can be inherited then something in that person’s environment triggers it.  They think one trigger might be related to cold weather because type 1 diabetes develops more often in winter than summer and is more common in colder climates.  It is less common in people who were breastfed.  (Source: www.diabetes.org

YOUR CHILD’S RISK:  Generally, if a man has type 1 diabetes, the odds of his child obtaining diabetes is one in 17.  If a woman has type 1 diabetes and their child was born before they were 25, then her child’s risk is one in 25; if the child was born after they turned 25, the child’s risk is one in 100. If the parent developed diabetes before age 11, then the child’s risk doubles.  If both of the child’s parents have type 1 diabetes, the risk is between one in 10 and one in four.  However, there is an exception to these numbers.  Close to one in every seven people with type 1 diabetes has a condition called type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome.  These people have thyroid disease, poorly working adrenal glands, and also have type 1 diabetes; some even have immune system disorders.  If a parent has this syndrome, then their child’s risk of getting the syndrome on top of type 1 diabetes is one in two.  Researchers are learning how to predict a person’s odds of getting diabetes. (Source:  www.diabetes.org)

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Type 1 diabetes happens when the body attacks its own beta cells, which are found in the pancreas.  Beta cells produce insulin.  The study at the University of Florida has linked people with type 1 diabetes to having smaller pancreases.  If there is a smaller pancreas in type 1 diabetes patients, then the number of insulin-producing beta cells is lowered too.  During the study, researchers weighed 164 organ donors’ pancreases.  Results showed that people who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or who were at risk for the disease had smaller than average-sized pancreases.  A normal pancreas weighs 80 grams.  A pancreas of people with type 1 diabetes weighed half that size.  People at risk for the disease had a pancreas weight of approximately 60 grams.  Researchers say that beta cells grow in utero and can continue to develop until the child is around five years old.  The study’s results stress the need to look earlier in people who are at risk for type 1 diabetes.  So the next step in research is to look at younger people and measure the volume of their pancreases through MRI imaging.  (Source: www.news.ufl.edu)