New screening test being developed for type 1 diabetes diagnoses in children

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Newly-developed antibody detection technology could improve the accuracy of tests used to diagnose type 1 diabetes in youngsters, say American researchers.
The technology could eventually lead to earlier detection of type 1 diabetes in children before the emergence of symptoms such as weight loss, increased thirst and fatigue, as well as limit the risk of children developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Researchers from Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Florida are investigating the concept involving a new way of detecting antibodies.
According to an article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the technology is able to search for an increased level of autoimmune antibodies connected to diabetes compared to existing diagnosis methods.
This is achieved using a protein called pancreatic zinc transport 8 (ZnT8), which is attacked by the immune system during the development of type 1 diabetes.
Researcher Dr Dax Fu said: “Although current tests are about 94 percent accurate in detecting the antibodies years before children and young adults lose all blood sugar control, they are not accurate enough to rely upon for populationwide screening, so current antibody testing is limited to confirming diagnosis in symptomatic children and adults.
“Increasing the test accuracy will help expand screening for asymptomatic type 1 diabetes into the general population. Presymptomatic diagnosis will provide the benefit of beginning preventative therapies.”
The protein ZnT8 has already been established as an indicator for the condition, however scientists have been unable to harness its potential in testing for type 1 diabetes until this latest work.
The breakthrough has involved the research team creating a new robust structure for ZnT8, as removing it from pancreatic cells sees its shape being changed leading to it becoming useless.
The technique was tested on 307 blood samples from humans, both from those with (138) and without the condition (169). The test was successful in identifying 76 per cent of the people with type 1 diabetes and 97 per cent of those without the condition.
“Presymptomatic diagnosis will provide the benefit of beginning preventative therapies,” added Fu. “This strategy opens up a new way to develop effective self-antigens to capture autoantibodies for disease diagnosis.”