Home Health Type 1 diabetes could develop when babies are still in the WOMB

Type 1 diabetes could develop when babies are still in the WOMB


Type 1 diabetes could develop when babies are still in the WOMB, study finds

  • Previously experts thought it only strikes when infants are older than six months
  • But research found the autoimmune disease can develop before infants are born
  • Breakthrough raises hope scientists will find new treatments for type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes may develop when babies are still in the womb, a study has found.

Previously experts thought that the condition only strikes when infants are older than six months.

But new research led by the University of Exeter found that the autoimmune disease – which occurs when the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells- can develop before infants are even born.

Experts said the breakthrough raises hope that scientists could find new treatments for type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels rise to risky levels and can lead to fatal complications, including amputations, sight loss, kidney disease, stroke and heart disease.

Experts said the breakthrough raises hope that scientists could find new treatments for type 1 diabetes

Experts said the breakthrough raises hope that scientists could find new treatments for type 1 diabetes

WHAT IS TYPE 1 DIABETES?

Type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable autoimmune disease that usually develops in childhood, but type 2 is mostly caused by poor diet. 

It afflicts some 400,000 people in the UK, one of the highest rates in the world. Around 1.25 million Americans are also affected.

It starts when the body mistakenly targets insulin-producing cells in the pancreas that maintain blood sugar levels.

As a result, it can drastically affect the body’s major organs and sufferers are forced to inject themselves regularly with insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is an unpreventable autoimmune disease that usually develops in childhood, but type 2 is mostly caused by poor diet.

Until recently, it was thought that children under six months could only develop neonatal diabetes, which is caused by a genetic mutation, and not type 1 diabetes.

But a study of more than 400 children with diabetes, published yesterday in Diabetologia, found that children could also develop the disease before the age of six months even if they didn’t have the genetic mutation.

It is the first time an autoimmune condition that isn’t caused by a single genetic change has been seen in children this young.

The research team also discovered that children with this very early onset type 1 diabetes had a lower than average birth weight.

Usually a foetus begins making insulin in the womb, helping them to grow.

But the new findings suggest the immune attack behind type 1 diabetes could start before birth in some babies, leading to reduced insulin production and consequently lower birth weight.

Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK who co-funded the research, said: ‘By revealing for the first time the existence of type 1 diabetes in the very first few months of life, these important findings rewrite our understanding of when the condition can strike and when the immune system can start to go wrong. 

‘We now need to piece together how and why type 1 diabetes can develop at such a young age.

‘This could also unlock crucial insights into causes of type 1 diabetes more generally in people of all ages, and will be essential to develop treatments that stop or prevent this life-altering condition in babies.’ 

Dr Matthew Johnston, Exeter Centre of Excellence in Diabetes (ExCEED) E3 Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, said: ‘This study proves that type 1 diabetes can present in the first few months of life, and in a tiny subset of infants may even begin before birth. 

‘We also found that diabetes diagnosed so young was associated with rapid progression to complete destruction of insulin producing beta cells.’ 

Dr Richard Oram, Diabetes UK Harry Keen Fellow at the University of Exeter, said: ‘The next phases of this work, where we study the immune system in more detail, will hopefully help explain how it is possible for type 1 diabetes to develop so early and whether these insights could open up new ways to prevent or treat the condition in the future.’ 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR DIABETES PATIENTS TO MEASURE THEIR GLUCOSE LEVELS?

Diabetes is a serious life-long condition that occurs when the amount of sugar in the blood is too high because the body can’t use it properly.

Patients have to regular monitor their glucose levels to prevent them from developing any potentially fatal complications.

Type 1 diabetes patients are often recommended to test their blood sugar at least four times a day. For type 2 patients, doctors advise to test twice a day.

Blood glucose levels should be between the ranges of 3.5–5.5mmol/L before meals and less than 8mmol/L, two hours after meals.

Diabetes patients have to regular monitor their glucose levels to prevent them from developing any potentially fatal complications

Diabetes patients have to regular monitor their glucose levels to prevent them from developing any potentially fatal complications

Hypoglycemia (when blood sugar drops below 4 mmol/L) can occasionally lead to patients falling into comas in severe cases.

However, it most often can be treated through eating or drinking 15-20g of fast acting carbohydrate, such 200ml of Lucozade Energy Original.

Sufferers can tell they are experiencing a hypo when they suddenly feel tired, have difficulty concentrating or feel dizzy.

Type 1 diabetes patients are more likely to experience a hypo, because of the medications they take, including insulin.

Hyperglycemia (when blood sugar is above 11.0 mmol/L two hours after a meal) can also have life-threatening complications.

It happens when the body either has too little insulin, seen in type 1, or it can’t use its supply properly, most often in type 2.

In the short-term, it can lead to conditions including ketoacidosis – which causes ketones to be released into the body. 

If left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to long-term complications, such as impotence and amputations of limbs.

Regular exercise can help to lower blood sugar levels over time, and following a healthy diet and proper meal planning can also avoid dangerous spikes.  

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

Joe Biden ahead in six battleground states Donald Trump won in 2016

Joe Biden is ahead in the six battleground states Donald Trump...

Ben Carson defends Trump for tearing up Obama-era housing rule

Ben Carson defends Trump's move to tear up Obama-era housing laws...

Borat sends Kim Kardashian hilarious 40th birthday Twitter message

Borat joins Kim Kardashian's well-wishers by leaving the reality TV star...

Dementia warning – why the area you live in could raise your risk of brain decline

"This new US-based research suggests a link between noisier areas to live and early-stage thinking problems, but if any causal link exists between...

Coronavirus UK: Students suspended and fined £10k EACH after party

Four university students have been fined £40,000 after throwing a house party, lying about it and moaning at officers for 'spoiling their fun'. The...