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Calculating a type 1 diabetes risk score

In his JDRF-funded project, Dr Richard Oram is developing a type 1 diabetes risk score to predict who will develop type 1 diabetes in the future. The research Richard and his team at the University of Exeter are doing will help how we screen people for type 1.
Content last reviewed and updated: 28.09.2023

Professor Richard Oram

Type 1 Diabetes Risk Calculator

Richard is designing a computer model that can calculate a person’s type 1 diabetes risk score by combining factors including their genes, family history of diabetes, and the number of islet autoantibodies they have. Islet auto antibodies are biological markers in the blood that show the immune attack that happens in type 1 has begun.

The risk score can be used to predict how likely an individual is to develop type 1 at different time points. As well as helping families plan for the future, this prediction tool could be a more cost-efficient and effective population screening method for type 1 diabetes.

How will Richard calculate the risk score?

Richard and his team will develop the tool us ing data from other studies including two screening projects TrialNet and the TEDDY study. The TEDDY study, which was co-funded by JDRF, also investigated causes of type 1 in young children. The study will help Richard understand the factors that could influence whether a child is likely to develop type 1. Th e researchers will then use these additional factors to improve their prediction model.

What have the researchers achieved so far?

The researchers have developed a new approach to predicting which babies will develop type 1 diabetes. He has created a prototype of the risk calculator, which he is now testing. It uses data from people of a variety of ethnicities to make sure the tool can be used by anyone.

What do they plan to do next?

Richard plans to make the model more accessible by developing a simple online calculator and app. This is something that the diabetes team at the University of Exeter has already successfully achieved with the Exeter MODY calculator.

Benefiting other researchers

Richard will share his risk model and the technology behind it with other researchers and clinicians. This will help researchers trying to understand the causes of type 1, slow or prevent type 1, improve screening methods, and those running clinical trials of treatments for type 1.

How will this research help people with type 1 diabetes?

Emerging drugs that target the immune system (immune therapies) and protect insulin-producing cells are most effective early in type 1 development. Screening is the only way to find people in the preclinical stage of type 1, which is before symptoms develop. Teplizumab is a drug available for people with preclinical type 1 in the US. We need an established screening programme in the UK before so that we know who will benefit from teplizumab and other drugs when they are licensed in the UK.

Why do we need population screening for type 1?

Most people who are diagnosed with type 1 don’t have any family members who also have it. People who aren’t affected by type 1 may be unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of type 1. Screening the population allows time for people at risk to become aware of the signs to look out for and learn about managing type 1. This helps prevent people being diagnosed as an emergency in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) .

Is JDRF funding any other screening projects?

We are also co-funding the ELSA study, which is screening 20,000 children across the UK to find those at high risk of developing type 1. Both studies are part of our research to determine the most practical and effective ways of screening the UK population for type 1.

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