Chemically modified insulin as a new marker to identify type 1 diabetes

A technique that could help predict, diagnose, stage and treat type 1 diabetes is currently being developed by researchers at the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London

Principal Investigator Dr Ahuva Nissim in collaboration with Prof Paolo Pozziili and Dr Rocky Strollo from University Campus BioMedico Rome are developing the capability to measure the presence of immune system proteins formed against a chemically-modified version of insulin found on the beta cells and in the blood of people living with type 1 diabetes. The technique will also measure how much of the chemically modified insulin is present in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes is a major clinical problem. The disease is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. According to the latest projections by the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030. As of yet, the causes are unknown and it is unpreventable with current knowledge. 

Dr Nissim said, “This novel biomarker is a significant advance in the diagnosis and prognosis of type 1 diabetes. If successful, the test could be added to standard blood tests when checking for type 1 diabetes-associated proteins. This additional test would be particularly useful to identify people at risk of type 1 who do not test positive for any of the four key immune system proteins associated with type 1.”

Understanding how the chemically-modified insulin plays a role in early type 1 progression may also support the development of future approaches intended to prevent the immune attack on the beta cells as a result of the presence of the chemically-modified insulin.

This research is being funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) until September 2020.

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