Improving screening and interventions for diabetes

Improving screening and interventions for diabetes

Illuminate newsletter header, Summer 21/22
December 2021

ENDIA study participants
ENDIA Study participants. The ENDIA Studyis finding
out what causes type 1 diabetes so we can find ways to
prevent it.

Type 1 diabetes is a serious health condition that occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin. Without insulin, the level of the sugar glucose in the blood cannot be controlled.    

Simpler screening for diabetes

Melbourne researchers led a global collaboration to develop a simplified blood test that increases the overall screening efficiency for type 1 diabetes.

The study, led by researchers from The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and WEHI, showed that a single finger prick blood test could be used in place of the current method of multiple venous blood samples during a two-hour oral glucose tolerance test.

RMH endocrinologist and WEHI clinician-scientist Associate Professor John Wentworth said the simple blood test he plans to develop could provide the same information without the inconvenience and discomfort of multiple blood draws.

“For several years, we have believed that multiple blood samples increased the accuracy of the oral glucose tolerance tests,” he said.

“We found that the blood sample taken two hours after the glucose drink predicted a clinical diagnosis with high accuracy. Our new prediction tool will increase screening efficiency for early diagnosis and treatment for more people with type 1 diabetes.”

Gut health linked to pregnancy complications

A recent study has found type 1 diabetes is associated with changes in the gut microbiome during pregnancy, which could contribute to complications in both the mother and baby.

The study found women with type 1 diabetes were more likely to have a pro-inflammatory gut microbiome during pregnancy. These changes could contribute to the increased risk of pregnancy complications seen in women with type 1 diabetes and could potentially be modified by dietary changes.

WEHI clinician-scientist Professor Len Harrison said the research was part of the ENDIA (Environmental Determinants of Islet Autoimmunity) study. 

“In women with type 1 diabetes, we observed changes in their gut microbiome, including a decrease in ‘good’ gut bacteria and an increase in ‘bad’ gut bacteria,” he said.

“Our new prediction tool will increase screening efficiency for early diagnosis and treatment for more people with type 1 diabetes.”

The next stage of the project aims to identify markers that would determine which women might benefit from safe interventions during pregnancy.

“We believe that if these women made some safe dietary modifications it could help to restore the health of their microbiome and lower their risk of complications during pregnancy. This is what we are investigating now,” he said.

Super Content: 
Animation still showing insulin release

WEHI.TV animation: how insulin is normally produced in the body and how its production is destroyed in type 1 diabetes.

Associate Professor John Wentworth in a laboratory

A five-year international trial has found that type 1 diabetes can be delayed by an immune therapy.

The therapy, teplizumab, delayed the onset of diabetes in participants by two years.