Researchers in Scotland may have identified one of the leading causes behind type 1 diabetes, and they think they know how to stop it.
Scientists working at the University of Dundee in Scotland may be on the verge of a huge breakthrough. According to a report from the BBC, a team of researchers are hoping that a new clinical study could shed new light about the cause and potential treatments for severe cases of type 1 diabetes.
The scientists say that the study could also lead to one of the first preventative treatments for the condition. The study was chosen to take place in Scotland due to the extensive medical records kept and the large percentage of the population that currently suffers from type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes develops in childhood and is largely unpreventable, researchers say. It is not to be confused with type 2 diabetes, which emerges in adulthood after years of poor diet and maintaining an unhealthy body weight. Type 2 diabetes related to poor diet has been on the rise for years, but scientists say there is also an uptick in cases of type 1 diabetes around the world.
Recent research dispelled the commonly held rumor that type 1 diabetes resulted from a breakdown of the body’s immune system. Researchers believed that the body attacked its own insulin-producing cells, rendering the pancreas unable to process sugars.
This belief was dispelled after a 2001 study explained that the large reserves of beta cells in the pancreas which are supposed to supply the body with insulin throughout a person’s lifetime were used up more quickly. Scientists believed that environmental factors accelerated the expenditure of these beta cells, which would explain the observed rise in its incidence.
The recent study seeks to examine 6,400 households in Scotland with at least one family member with type 1 diabetes. Children in these families would be offered a simple blood test to gauge their risk for developing the disorder. The scientists will offer metformin, a medication that protects the beta cells in the pancreas, to those who turn up positive.
Scientists hope that the study will lead to better diagnostics and treatment procedures for type 1 diabetes in the near future.
A press release from the University of Dundee describing the details of the study can be found here.