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Using genetics to predict Type 1 diabetes

Project summary

There is a time window of several years between the start of the Type 1 diabetes immune attack and the appearance of symptoms.

Dr Richard Oram has developed a ‘risk calculator’ that uses information from genes linked to Type 1 diabetes to potentially find those at risk of the condition. Now, they want to test the calculator using data from several large studies.

This could help to find people at high risk of Type 1 diabetes in the future, and provide vital knowledge to help create treatments to stop it.

Background to research

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body’s own immune system attacks insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

The immune attack usually begins several years before the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes appear. This time between the start of the attack and the symptoms offers a window of opportunity to prevent the onset of Type 1 diabetes.

Over 50 genes have now been linked to the risk of developing Type 1 diabetes. Dr Oram and his team have developed a genetic risk score: a calculator that takes information from these genes to identify those at highest risk of developing Type 1 diabetes. 

Research aims

Dr Oram’s student will collate information from several large studies that follow people at risk of Type 1 diabetes. They will test the new genetic risk score, combining it with other factors (such as information about the immune system, age and sex) to see if it can predict who is most likely to develop Type 1 diabetes in the future. 

They will take information from four studies: TEDDY, TRIALNET, the Type 1 diabetes genetic consortium and the UK Biobank.

All of the data from the people taking part in these studies has already been collected, so now it can be used to test the genetic risk score.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

If successful, this study could help us find those who are at high risk of developing Type 1 diabetes in the future.

This is important, because we can then ensure those people can spot the signs of Type 1 diabetes (to reduce their risk of complications during diagnosis) and find out more about the ‘triggers’ of Type 1 diabetes.

Alongside this, this vital knowledge will help scientists to develop treatments that can stop Type 1 diabetes before the symptoms appear.

Seth Sharpe, PhD student working on this project has already made headway on the genetic risk calculator. Read more about the team's discovery.

This project has been adopted by:

Individuals: Mr Robert Davies

Organisations: The Foster Wood Foundation
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