A pioneering UK trial is investigating whether it is possible to prevent high risk babies from developing type 1 diabetes.
Oxford University researchers have the idea to train the immune systems of infants by spoon-feeding them with powdered insulin. It is hoped this will help the babies’ insulin-producing cells work for longer, affording them protection to type 1 diabetes.
Pregnant women in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire are being urged to sign up to the Primary Oral Insulin Trial (POInT). The Oxford researchers are looking to screen 30,000 babies to find eligible ones for the trial.
The parents that take part will be asked to give the powdered insulin to their baby daily when they are between six months and three years old. Half of the babies will receive placebo so the results can be compared.
The parents will then receive visits from the Oxford research team in order to monitor the children’s progress.
Chief investigator of the Oxford trial Dr Matthew Snape said: “Preventing children and their families from having to live with diabetes and its threat of complications such as blindness, kidney or heart disease would be fantastic.”
The work is being led by The Global Platform for the Prevention of Autoimmune Diabetes (GPPAD), which was set up in 2015 with a view to investigating how to prevent type 1 diabetes in clinical trials.
Around one in every 100 babies are born carrying genes that increases their risk of type 1 diabetes. Experts say a routine heel prick blood test on newborns could be used to identify these genes.
Preventing the dysfunction of insulin-producing cells is paramount in people at high risk of type 1 diabetes. In 2016, a separate trial began investigating whether metformin could prevent the acceleration of beta cell destruction among those at high risk of type 1 diabetes.
The new project is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research, JDRF, Diabetes UK and the Wellcome Trust, as well as the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust.