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Harnessing genetic information to understand Type 1 diabetes and its complications

Project summary

Professor Helen Colhoun and her team will look for specific genes involved in type 1 diabetes and its complications, to provide insight into the complex pathways involved. This will help to develop new therapies for type 1 diabetes that aim to target those pathways. 

Background to research

Scientists have identified more than 50 locations within our genes that affect our risk of developing type 1 diabetes. These genetic discoveries have identified many potential biological pathways involved, some of which are now being targeted by new therapies.

However, these gene locations don't explain everything, and new locations continue to be discovered. Almost all studies to date have been in people who developed type 1 diabetes as a child, despite the fact that almost 50 percent of people get diagnosed as an adult. This means that additional work to detect new gene locations is necessary, especially for those who develop type 1 diabetes at an older age.

Complications of type 1 diabetes, for example damage to the eye and kidney disease, are also partly determined by our genes. But, so far, studies which have attempted to discover the genes involved haven't been successful.

Research aims

With previous support from us and the Chief Scientist Office in Scotland, Professor Helen Colhoun enrolled 6,152 people with type 1 diabetes, stored their biological samples, and linked their data to their electronic health care records (called The Scottish Diabetes Research Network Type 1 Bioresource, or SDRNT1BIO). 

With our new funding, Professor Colhoun and her team will analyse this data and attempt to discover new genes associated with type 1 diabetes, including adult-onset type 1 diabetes, and its complications. The team will also investigate how the genes associated with type 1 diabetes and its complications influence the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes need effective treatments to slow or prevent the development of the condition and its complications. The researchers hope to discover the biological pathways involved in type 1 diabetes and its complications, so that treatments that interfere with these pathways can be developed.

The study may also be able to identify those who are at a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes, so that they can be invited to take part in clinical trials. 

This project has been adopted by:

Diabetes UK local groups: Caithness, Inverness & District, Moray, and Petersfield & District

Organisations: Caring for One Foundation - on behalf of The Nicholson Family

Individuals: Euan McKay
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