Did you know there’s a very simple screening test that can determine whether a close family member of someone with type 1 will also be diagnosed with the disease? And did you know this type of screening could ultimately help cure T1D?
TrialNet is an organization made up of physicians, scientists and healthcare teams at the forefront of type 1 research who are working to prevent and cure type 1 by screening family members who are living with the disease. We are the largest international network of T1D researchers in the world, offering risk screening and clinical studies that test ways to maintain insulin production before and after diagnosis.
One of our main goals at TrialNet is to understand the disease more fully so we can predict it, intervene early on and make a difference in disease progression. In order to do that we need to better understand the natural history of the disease, and we’ve determined that it doesn’t just begin when you get ketoacidosis or clinical diabetes – it occurs many, many years before.
There are actually three distinct stages of type 1:
Stage 1 is considered the start of T1D. Individuals test positive for two or more diabetes-related autoantibodies identified by TrialNet screening. The immune system has started attacking insulin-producing beta cells, although blood sugar levels remain normal and no symptoms are present.
Stage 2, like stage 1, includes individuals with two or more diabetes-related autoantibodies, but now blood sugar levels have become abnormal due to increasing loss of beta cells. There are still no symptoms.
Stage 3 is when clinical diagnosis typically takes place. By this time, there is significant beta cell loss and symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually present.
Enhanced understanding of the three stages of T1D explain why screening is so important.
The first two stages can actually be identified by TrialNet screening prior to any symptoms. Our job is to identify the disease in its earliest stage and stop disease progression by preserving beta cell production.
It all starts with Pathway to Prevention screening – a simple blood test to determine where someone is on the path to T1D.
Pathway to Prevention screening is offered free to relatives of people with T1D. Through this screening, we can detect the disease in its earliest stages — often years before symptoms appear. The screening can detect autoantibodies signaling the disease. When autoantibodies are found, we try to enroll those people in clinical trials to 1) prevent disease progression, or 2) monitor them for further disease progression.
If we can make earlier diagnoses and identify eligible individuals for participation in prevention trials, we can decrease instances of illness and death.
Our research shows that age plays a significant role in the rate of T1D progression. The younger the person, the faster the disease will progress, and we are now able to screen children at birth for genetic risk.
We’ve done over 75 studies in the last 10 years to intervene in the disease, and we’ve screened over 200,000 participants who fit the eligibility criteria. With more than 200 locations offering screening and the option to get a test kit in the mail, it’s very easy to participate and it’s completely free.
- Anyone between age 1 and 45 with a sibling, child or parent with type 1.
- Anyone between age 1 and 20 with a cousin, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, grandparent or half-sibling with T1D.
Those under 18 who do not have autoantibodies can be retested every year.
If you are ready to take your first step on the Pathway to Prevention or would like more information, contact TrialNet at 1-800-425-8361, Monday through Friday, 8a.m. to 5p.m. (ET), or visit trialnet.org.