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Researchers in Scotland begin trial to prevent Type 1 diabetes

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20 April 2016

Can metformin prevent Type 1 diabetes? 

A new trial is about to begin in Scotland, testing whether metformin an inexpensive drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes – could prevent Type 1 diabetes in children at risk. 

The autoimmune Accelerator Prevention Trial (adAPT) is being led by researchers at the University of Exeter, the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside, and is funded by JDRF. 

Preventing the immune attack

Type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune condition, where the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells found in the pancreas. So far, trials to try to prevent that immune attack have been disappointing. 

This group of researchers believe that the beta cells first become stressed, sending out signals to the immune system that lead to the attack. They want to see if metformin (a drug known to protect beta cells from stress) can keep the cells functioning well and prevent the immune attack from starting up. 

Finding children at risk

The team aim to contact 6,400 families in Scotland affected by Type 1 diabetes, with plans to extend the study into England later on.

Children aged 5-16 with a sibling or parent with Type 1 diabetes will be invited for a blood test, to see if they’re at a high risk of developing the condition. If they are, they’ll be invited to take part in the trial. 

Testing metformin

The study will look at the impact metformin has on the metabolism and immune systems of children at risk of Type 1 diabetes. The researchers hope that the drug might keep the beta cells working well, preventing the onset of the condition. 

The trial will take six years to complete, and represents a very exciting step towards finding a safe and effective drug that might prevent the development of Type 1 diabetes. 

More information about the trial, or how to get involved, can be found on the adAPT trial website

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