Scientists find markers that make it possible to detect type-1 diabetes in children before any symptoms appear. Much research is still needed but they hope this discovery could lead to a vaccine in the future. Amy Pollock reports.
Cornelia and Hedvig have been monitored for type 1 diabetes since birth. SOUNDBITE (Swedish) CORNELIA NICKLASSON WHO IS TAKING PART IN TRIAL, SAYING: "She usually asks some questions... about what I eat, what I do and then I'm measured to see how tall I am and how much I weigh compared to last time and then they take a blood sample". SOUNDBITE (Swedish) HEDVIG NICKLASSON WHO IS TAKING PART IN TRIAL, SAYING: "They take a blood sample, weigh and measure me and I've had to answer some questions." The siblings are among 8,600 children in four countries taking part in a diabetes study. The serious, lifelong, autoimmune condition is often diagnosed in childhood. Now Swedish researchers say they've found a way to detect the disease in children years before they have any symptoms. Ake Lernmark from Lund University is leading the research. SOUNDBITE (English) LEAD RESEARCHER PROFESSOR AKE LERNMARK SAYING: "So the TEDDY study has discovered that the appearance of autoantibodies against insulin-producing cells, appear during the first years of life, but the disease is not diagnosed until some ten years later." Children with higher levels of these autoantibodies in their blood could receive treatment earlier and lower doses of insulin. It may even be possible to avoid some debilitating symptoms completely. The researchers say that by the time children are diagnosed, it's too late to look for triggers. And while it's still not known why the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells, this study could hold the key. SOUNDBITE (English) LEAD RESEARCHER PROFESSOR AKE LERNMARK SAYING: "So let's assume, or hypothesise that there is a virus being responsible for triggering these autoantibodies, the goal is then to make a vaccine against that virus." The Nicklasson children are used to the myriad of tests they regularly face. And the TEDDY researchers hope testing children like them will help unlock the secrets of the condition.