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New test helps predict juvenile diabetes


April 2015

In diabetes, the body has trouble regulating its blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. Type 1 diabetes (T1D), commonly known as juvenile diabetes because it is often diagnosed in young children, is an autoimmune disease in which a personís pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. As many as 15,000 children are diagnosed with T1D in the U.S. each year.

Like some other diseases, T1D can progress without symptoms for several years prior to diagnosis, according to Martin Hessner, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and director of the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes at the Childrenís Hospital of Wisconsin. Now, Hessner and his research team have developed a blood test that can detect inflammation associated with T1D before its onset. "During the early years, the disease is often not detected until beta cells (the tiniest living unit that humans are made of) that make insulin are destroyed and it is too late to effectively intervene with therapies that can preserve the cells," he explains. "If we can detect the disease earlier, we can start treating earlier. The test may also help us determine which siblings in a family will get the disease."

Hessnerís work is unique because it aims to detect biomarkers that are present before beta cells are destroyed ó up to five years or more prior to disease onset. "Now we are aiming for a blood test that we can use to screen individuals," he says.


This story ran in the April 2015 issue of: