One in 200 children in the U.S. develop type 1 diabetes, an incidence rate that is increasing 3 to 5 percent each year, researchers say. Although TEDDY screens for just two, about a dozen genes are now known to increase risk. Drs. She and Cong-Yi Wang discovered one of those genes, SUMO-4, in 2004 and will soon publish findings about another. When more comprehensive genetic screening is available Dr. She thinks there are at least 20 genes it should be about 50 percent accurate at identifying children who will develop the disease, he says.
Dr. She's studies are yielding protein markers that indicate there are actually subtypes of type 1 diabetes, which fits with the large number of genes and apparent environmental factors that seem to come into play. "You are probably not going to stop the disease in all children with one approach." Rather he hopes TEDDY will help researchers identify child-specific causes so an individualized treatment or even prevention strategy can be identified.
"We want to identify the environmental factors, we can't do anything yet about the genetic factors," says Diane Hopkins, project manager. "We think high-risk children are exposed to a set of triggers, it may be dietary, it may be viral, it may be a stressor, it may be all three. It could be viral but only if the exposure occurs early in life. It may be different things in different people. It's anybody's guess at this point."
For example, a prevailing theory is that early exposure to cow's milk is a cause and breast feeding is protective. So TEDDY is gathering data about what kind of milk or formula the child gets. "There is a ton of information we are collecting," Mrs. Hopkins says. A goal of TEDDY is to discern fact from theory then work backward to fight the disease. Researchers hope one day the screening they provide will be routine and that when high-risk genes surface, parents can receive an i
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia