Around the world, many researchers rely on biobanking facilities to study a wide variety of conditions. Using sample management software and a freezer inventory stocked with biological data, these scientists have access to a wealth of information that may hopefully be used to create translational medicine. However, these sample management systems, freezers and testing equipment would be useless if patients weren’t willing to make donations. For this reason, a screening clinic in Kingston, ON could have a significant impact on the treatment of a life-changing disease: Type 1 diabetes.
In April 2014, the first Type 1 diabetes clinic was held at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston to take blood samples from family members of patients with the disease. This year, the clinic was held again to allow researchers to collect further evidence on the development of the disease. However, despite its name, the clinic isn’t intended to help donors find out if they have Type 1 diabetes; instead, the researchers are screening for certain antibodies that are related to the disease and put a person at an increased risk of developing Type 1 diabetes over the course of their lives.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to regulate its blood glucose levels, affecting five to 10% of diabetes patients. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, a more common form that can be treated with a healthy lifestyle and oral medication, Type 1 diabetes can only be treated with insulin injections.
The Kingston screening clinic is looking for the less than 5% of family members who will have the antibodies. Last year, only 27 people qualified for the study, a number the researchers hope to increase this year. The scientists say that samples from these donors will help them study how quickly the disease begins and progresses and also help people learn if they are at risk of developing diabetes themselves.
The researchers specifically contacted a number of potential participants identified through hospital records, but any immediate relative of a diabetic between the ages of one and 45 years old was applicable. If a participant at one of these clinics is found to have the antibodies, the research team takes a blood sample which will be placed in a biobank’s sample management system, allowing scientists around the world to access the data. The researchers also continue to follow anyone under the age of 18 who is tested, even if they don’t have the antibodies, as the disease can develop at a young age.
The researchers say that Type 1 diabetes is a growing problem around the world, with data from the United States and Europe showing that it is increasing at a rate of 2% per year, causing an estimated 80,000 children to develop the disease every year. However, the problem is believed to be even more severe in Canada. Type 1 diabetes has no known cause, but long-term complications can include heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, eye damage and foot ulcers if the condition is not properly treated.