Researchers from the University of Bristol shows that there is a significant increase in risk of developing type 1 diabetes for siblings of children which have been diagnosed the condition before their tenth birthday.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that causes the body’s immune system to attack insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes is frequently diagnosed in children and is less common than type 2 diabetes.
The results of analysis showed that for children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after their tenth birthday, 3% of siblings went on to develop the condition. In addition, another 6% of the siblings went on to develop markers for autoimmunity against insulin-producing cells.
However, when the researchers reviewed siblings of children who had been diagnosed before they were 10 years old, 23% of siblings developed type 1 diabetes and another 29% of the siblings developed markers for autoimmunity.
The research, which was funded by the type 1 diabetes charity the JDRF, involved reviewing cases of children that were genetically susceptible to type 1 diabetes. 138 pairs of children that had been registered in the Bart’s-Oxford family study were used for the analysis.
The results of the study could play an important part in future prevention of type 1 diabetes by allowing preventative treatments to be used before children develop the autoantibodies that bring on the autoimmune condition.
The researchers believe the difference in risk could be down to either genetic or environmental factors that could be influencing both siblings. The research team are keen to follow up their study by looking for the factors which could be responsible for increasing risk, an area of research known as epigenetics.

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