A recent study, led by researchers at the University of Exeter, U.K., revealed a new diagnostic method for diabetes that may lead to more effective disease diagnosis and patient care. The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care and is titled “A Type 1 Diabetes Genetic Risk Score Can Aid Discrimination Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes in Young Adults.”
The distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes in young adults is becoming increasingly difficult with the rise in obesity. Yet discrimination between the two disease types is important as type 1 diabetes requires treatment with insulin injections, while type 2 diabetes can be controlled through weight loss and diet.
In the study, researchers created a genetic risk score based on common genetic variants associated with type 1 diabetes that allow the discrimination between the two types and the prediction of severe insulin deficiency, which implies insulin treatment.
“This will be an important addition to correctly classifying individuals with diabetes and will improve the number of people who get the right treatment when they are first diagnosed, especially people who sit in the overlap between type 1 and type 2 diagnosis,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Richard Oram, in a news release. “There is often no going back once insulin treatment starts. This may save people with Type 2 diabetes from being treated with insulin unnecessarily, but also stop the rare but serious occurrence of people with Type 1 being initially treated with tablets inappropriately and running of the risk of severe illness.”
The genetic test measures 30 DNA genetic variants and accounts for all the risks linked to them in a single score. The score represents the genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, and a high score most likely indicates type 1, while a low score is indicative of type 2.
“Having this information about their diabetes and about their genetic risk will make a big difference to the way people feel about their care. If you speak to people with diabetes they often want to know why they have developed the disease and whether some of their risk for the disease is genetic,” said Dr. Oram.
The research team thinks the genetic test can accurately identify young adults with diabetes who will require insulin treatment. Researchers suggest that the test can be used, together with existing diagnostic tests, to correctly classify a diabetes type.
The team is now developing a test that can be performed in a cheap and quick way in the clinical laboratory, translating their findings into improved clinical care. “We think this is a really good example of taking results from large-scale genetic studies and translating them into clinical practice and improved patient care,” concluded the study’s co-senior author, Dr. Michael Weedon.