People could be able to find out their risk of developing complications from type 1 diabetes – if researchers are successful in a groundbreaking study.
Highly-sensitive blood testing techniques are being used in the pioneering research to identify people most at risk of developing life-threatening side effects of the disease.
The study could change the way the condition is treated as complications cannot currently be predicted following a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
If successful, it would mean people with an increased risk of complications could be identified and treated earlier on.
The University of Dundee’s Professor Helen Colhou, who is leading the study, said: “Life expectancy in people with type 1 diabetes is improving, complication rates have improved – but there are still some people susceptible to developing complications.”
‘Reduce the impact of diabetes’
“The focus of my research is to try to reduce the impact of diabetes and to try to prevent complications – we are looking at reasons why these complications develop in certain people and identifying who is most at risk.”
It is not fully understood why people develop type 1 diabetes. Until recently, it was believed that people with type 1 diabetes had no insulin-producing cells in their pancreas, however, researchers have found a large proportion of the people with the condition actually had a low level of background insulin-producing cells.
Colhoun added: “This holds great hope for the future […] It means we might be able to better understand type 1 diabetes and how to improve treatment.
“These trials could be hugely important for predicting where we should tailor resources and reduce the burden for people with diabetes. There is still a way to go to get to a stage where type 1 diabetes has no impact on your life expectancy.”
So far 6,000 people have been recruited for the study, which is around a third of those with the condition in Scotland. The research is funded by type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, Diabetes UK and the Chief Scientist Office.

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