The study will answer critical questions about how Type 1 diabetes develops in adults. Blood tests will identify those likely to develop the condition, allowing earlier, safer diagnosis. Rollout means UK is first country in the world to offer general population screening for children and adults.
Launching on World Diabetes Day (14 November 2023), the Type 1 Diabetes Risk in Adults (T1DRA) study aims to recruit 20,000 adults, aged between 18 and 70, from the general population to assess their risk. With a similar study for children – ELSA – launched last year, it means the UK is now the first country to offer general population Type 1 diabetes screening for both children and adults, in a research setting.
Funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and drawing on the UK’s longest running study of Type 1 diabetes, the Diabetes UK-funded Bart’s Oxford Family study (BOX), T1DRA will answer critical questions about the development of adult-onset type 1 diabetes. It will also give those identified as high risk the opportunity for type 1 diabetes education and monitoring, and access to clinical trials testing the newest innovations in type 1 diabetes treatment, which could prevent or delay the condition.
T1DRA will be open to those with close family members with Type 1 diabetes, who make up about 90% of those with the condition. The research team, led by Professor Kathleen Gillespie at the University of Bristol, will send participants test kits in the post, involving a finger prick blood test. They will examine the blood samples for markers of Type 1 diabetes, called islet autoantibodies – proteins used by the immune system to earmark insulin-producing cells for destruction. Islet autoantibodies are linked with the development of Type 1 diabetes, and can appear in the blood years, or sometimes decades, before people begin to experience any symptoms.
People identified as high risk will be followed up by the research team to examine how many develop Type 1 diabetes, how quickly they progress to a clinical diagnosis and to identify which genetic, biological, and environmental factors can be linked with symptoms developing quickly. High risk participants will be offered access to information about the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, its management, and clinical trials testing new type 1 therapies.
While insulin therapy is required to manage type 1 diabetes, there are new immunotherapies on the horizon that could prevent or delay the onset of the condition. One such treatment, teplizumab, which has been found to delay a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes by on average three years, was approved for use in the US in 2022 and is currently being reviewed for approval in the UK. Several other immunotherapies for people at high risk of developing Type 1 diabetes are currently being tested in clinical trials.
To sign up to the T1DRA study visit: t1dra.bristol.ac.uk