A new method of identifying warning signs of type 1 diabetes earlier may pave the way for methods that might prevent the condition from developing.
US scientists from Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) say they can identify antibodies indicative of type 1 diabetes much earlier than traditional testing.
“The biggest surprise was how far ahead we could detect these antibodies,” said Brian Feldma, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist from UCSF. “Identifying these patients as early as possible is a really high priority for the field.”
The study team have built an inexpensive nanotech-based microchip which can be used to detect antibodies that appear in the early stages of type 1 diabetes. In contrast, current methods of diagnosing type 1 diabetes are used to detect antibodies in the latter stages.
The microchip was tested on blood samples from six people who participated in a large study called TrialNet, which followed people who had close relatives with type 1 diabetes. Their blood samples were collected every six months for several years.
The six people did not have diabetes before the trial, but went on to develop the condition. Blood samples were also collected from eight healthy volunteers.
In two of the six, the microchip identified bad antibodies a year earlier than traditional tests, and in one person they were identified four years earlier. No false positives were identified among the healthy volunteers.
If larger clinical trials verify these findings, the additional warning time could be significant in preventing type 1 diabetes from developing in those at risk. “The earlier you apply these next-generation therapies, the better they work,” said Feldman.
Furthermore, the chip’s inexpensiveness provides an advantage over the more costly, harder-to-use diagnostic methods currently in place.

“We’re excited about that because we have an interest in making state-of-the-art diagnostics much more available, both in our own country and globally,” Feldman added.
The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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