Screening and Prevention of Type 1 Diabetes
By Arvind Sommi
Early screening for type 1 diabetes is vital for timely treatment and prevention of certain complications. With recent advancements such as the FDA approval of Tzield (teplizumab) and ongoing research efforts on stem cells, there is optimism in the quest for an eventual cure.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide. While there is currently no cure for the disease, screening and early detection plays a vital role in managing and preventing potentially life-threatening complications.
Importance of early detection
"Early detection is crucial because it allows for timely treatment and helps prevent dangerous complications such as DKA," said Dr. Rachel Besser from the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.
Detecting type 1 diabetes in its early stages enables healthcare providers to intervene quickly, initiating appropriate treatment plans and reducing the risk of severe complications.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is one such life-threatening condition that can occur if type 1 diabetes is left undiagnosed. DKA develops when the body lacks insulin to use glucose as an energy source, leading to the breakdown of fats and the release of toxic ketones. Timely diagnosis and intervention can prevent DKA.
Besser pointed out that even though those with a first-degree relative are 15 times more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, these people only account for about 10% of the type 1 population. She encourages more of the general public to get screened, even though only 0.3% may go on to develop type 1 diabetes.
How to get screened for type 1 diabetes
Screening for type 1 diabetes is extremely important for early detection and treatment of the condition. Although people have been reluctant to get screened in the past because there was not much that could be done, new interventions such as Tzield (teplizumab) offer hope.
Here are three ways to get screened:
- At-home testing: This is a simple test that can be completed at home and mailed back. If the results are positive, a confirmatory test should be performed at a doctor’s office. This test is associated with JDRF’s T1Detect program. The cost of this test is $55, with reduced-cost options for anyone in financial need.
- TrialNet: This is a clinical trial program that provides free testing to those who have a family connection to type 1 diabetes.
- Doctor’s office or lab: A doctor can order a blood test that may be done in the clinic or a lab, such as LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics.
People who test positive for two or more autoantibodies will be called to discuss results and develop a plan moving forward.
Advancements in treatment
While a complete cure for type 1 diabetes has not yet been achieved, recent developments like the FDA approval of Tzield show promise.
Tzield is a medication that treats individuals at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. It’s an injectable drug taken once daily for 14 days that binds to and modifies cells in the immune system called T-cells. In people with type 1 diabetes, T-cells destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. With the help of Tzield, this self-destructive process is interrupted, effectively delaying the onset of diabetes by an average of two years.
Dr. Jay Skyler, director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, shared an optimistic perspective.
"Stem cells have the potential to replace the damaged cells in the pancreas, which could restore the body's ability to produce insulin," Skyler said.
This groundbreaking approach from companies, such as Vertex, could revolutionize diabetes management by targeting the root cause of the disease.
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