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Delving into data to get the diabetes diagnosis right

Project summary

Not everyone with diabetes is diagnosed with the right type straight away. Dr Angus Jones wants to shed more light on how common misdiagnosis is and who could benefit from extra checks by analysing data from a large health study, called the UK Biobank. His insights could help more people with diabetes to get the right diagnosis, and the right care and advice. 

Background to research

The type of diabetes a person has isn’t always easy to diagnose, especially when people develop diabetes in adulthood. It’s thought that at least 7% of adults diagnosed with type 1 actually have type 2, a genetic type of diabetes called MODY, or another type altogether. While 15% of people who have type 1 are initially misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

These people potentially face a lifetime of the wrong care, meaning they’d miss out on the treatments, technology, and education that would help them to live best with their diabetes type. So it’s vitally important to get the diagnosis right as quickly as possible.  

C-peptide is a molecule that’s produced when the body makes insulin. Measuring C-peptide can help to understand how much of their own insulin a person can make. Dr Jones has shown it can be helpful to guide which type of diabetes someone has. 

The UK Biobank is a very large database of health data from half a million people in the UK. It’s an incredibly useful resource for diabetes researchers. But it’s currently difficult to accurately know which people in the UK Biobank have type 1 diabetes. This could mean researchers are unknowingly studying people with a mix of diabetes types, which could give misleading findings.  

Research aims

Dr Angus Jones and his team will measure C-peptide in around 5,600 people who are part of the UK Biobank and treat diabetes with insulin. This will help to clear up who in the UK Biobank has type 1 diabetes, as well as find those who might have been misdiagnosed, and help to aid future diabetes research. 

Dr Jones and team will then use these C-peptide measurements, and other health and genetic information already available in UK Biobank, to understand how often diabetes is misdiagnosed, and which groups of people are most likely to get an incorrect diagnosis. This will help them to find out the best way to identify people who would benefit from extra tests to check their type of diabetes.  

Finally, they’ll explore the impact of getting the wrong diagnosis. For example, if it could lead to problems like DKA or an increased risk of diabetes complications. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Getting the diagnosis right as soon as possible is incredibly important and could save people from years of inappropriate treatment and advice. Dr Jones’ research could improve how we tell the difference between diabetes types and inform NHS guidelines to help thousands every year avoid misdiagnosis. 

This work will also improve an important diabetes research resource, helping to make sure findings from future research are more accurate and will lead to greater benefits for people with diabetes. 

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