Research from Italy has found an association between type 1 diabetes and low levels at birth of a molecule called carnitine.
The researchers assessed the blood of 250 new born babies. 50 of the babies were those that developed type 1 diabetes and these were matched to 200 other babies that did not go on to develop the autoimmune disease.
Results showed that the children which went on to develop type 1 diabetes had significantly lower levels of carnitine compounds at birth.
Carnitine has a number of roles, one of which is that it can act as a growth factor. Researchers note that previous research into chickens have shown that low cartinine levels have been associated with a smaller thymus, an organ which plays a key part in the education of the immune system.
The immune system has particular importance in type 1 diabetes as it is a failure in adequate regulation of the immune system that is known to lead to type 1 diabetes taking hold.
The findings could be useful in a number of ways. Carnitine levels could be routinely measured at birth to identify children with a higher diabetes risk to assist doctors and parents in being aware of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and thus aiding an earlier diagnosis of the condition.
The research could also provide helpful in opening the door to discovering whether taking carnitine as a supplement in babies with low levels could reduce the chances of developing type 1 diabetes.

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