Identifying Type 1 Diabetes before Beta Cell Loss

Hessner.Biomakers Plot image
Plot of changes in potential biomarkers
predicting risk for diabetes

Martin Hessner, PhD | Medical College of Wisconsin |Basic Science Award | Funded for 3 years at $345,000

Type 1 diabetes is thought to progress without symptoms for several years in most patients prior to diagnosis. During this critical time, while beta cells are destroyed, the disease is often not detected until beta cell loss is substantial enough for the patient to notice symptoms of advanced disease. By that time, it is typically too late to effectively intervene with therapies that may preserve beta cells.

Dr. Hessner is investigating so-called “biomarkers,” which are components in blood or tissue samples that can be measured to predict which individuals are most likely to develop type 1 diabetes. His work is unique, because it aims to detect biomarkers that are present before beta cell destruction progresses to clinical symptoms, up to 5 years or more prior to disease onset.

One potential candidate biomarker may be related to inflammation. Dr. Hessner recently showed that family members of people with type 1 diabetes have an enhanced inflammatory state that is regulated differently during aging between high genetic risk siblings who go on to develop type 1 diabetes and those with high risk who do not progress to type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Hessner is working to refine biomarkers that can be used clinically for early identification of individuals most likely to develop the disease. This study may also lend insight into how the risk of developing type 1 diabetes decreases with aging. If successful, these blood tests could be employed to identify people who would benefit from drug therapies to protect beta cells from autoimmune attack, thereby reducing the impact of diabetes complications and delaying or potentially preventing the onset of type 1 diabetes.

  • Last Reviewed: September 9, 2014
  • Last Edited: September 11, 2014

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