The UK has launched a pioneering study to explore the development of type 1 diabetes in adults which aims to screen 20,000 individuals.
Research will enable earlier and safer diagnosis of type 1 diabetes through blood tests.
This makes the UK the first country to implement general population screening for type 1 diabetes in both children and adults.
The Type 1 Diabetes Risk in Adults (T1DRA) study, launched on World Diabetes Day, seeks to enroll 20,000 adults aged 18 to 70.
- Routine finger-prick blood test could be used to identify toddlers’ risk of type 1 diabetes
- Weekly insulin injections could reduce the burden of daily jabs
- Activity snacks can help people with type 1 diabetes manage blood sugar levels
This follows the ELSA study for children launched last year, positioning the UK as a leader in diabetes screening research.
Supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and building on the Diabetes UK-funded Bart’s Oxford Family study (BOX), T1DRA aims to unravel the mysteries of adult-onset type 1 diabetes.
Participants identified as high risk will gain access to diabetes education, monitoring, and clinical trials for innovative treatments.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, affecting up to 400,000 people in the UK, is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells.
Over half of the diagnoses occur in adults, yet research has primarily focused on children, leaving adult-onset type 1 diabetes less understood.
Who is eligible for the study?
T1DRA targets individuals without close family members with type 1 diabetes, who represent around 90% of cases.
How does the study work?
Led by Professor Kathleen Gillespie from the University of Bristol, the study involves a simple finger prick blood test sent to participants.
The test looks for islet autoantibodies, indicators of type 1 diabetes, which can appear years before symptoms.
High-risk individuals will be monitored to study the progression to type 1 diabetes and to identify associated genetic, biological, and environmental factors. They will also receive information on symptoms, management, and access to trials for new treatments.
While insulin therapy remains essential for managing type 1 diabetes, new immunotherapies like teplizumab, which delays the onset of the condition, are emerging.
Teplizumab, already approved in the US in 2022, is under review in the UK, alongside other immunotherapies in clinical trials.
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The study complements the ELSA study for children, led by Professor Parth Narendran at the University of Birmingham.
Professor Kathleen Gillespie, lead researcher on T1DRA, at the University of Bristol, said: “This research will help us get a much clearer idea of how many adults in the UK are at risk of type 1 diabetes by screening for markers in blood samples. We will follow up those individuals with islet autoantibodies to better understand how type 1 diabetes occurs in adults and offer participants the opportunity to participate in clinical trials to prevent the condition.”
“I’d encourage anyone reading this to sign up”
Model Roxy Horner, 32, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a month before her 30th birthday.
She said: “Being taken to A&E and then being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes was such a shock and things have never been the same. Diabetes is relentless and as a young Mum, looking after a new baby and managing my condition can be challenging. I wish there had been a better way of preparing me for such life-changing news.
“The T1DRA trial is important because it will help teach us more about people who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as adults. I really hope the trial will get us a step closer to a time when it can be spotted early so people can be more prepared. Type 1 diabetes can come on at any age and I’d encourage anyone reading this to sign up to the T1DRA trial today.”
- To sign up to the T1DRA study visit: t1dra.bristol.ac.uk.