Having a relative with type-1 diabetes makes you 15 times as likely as other people to get the disease, in which the body inappropriately destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. But unlike the more common form of diabetes, type-2 diabetes, physicians don't know how to prevent type 1 diabetes from developing in at-risk individuals.
To find out, they're studying family members of type-1 diabetes patients. The large, multi-center research effort, called Type-1 Diabetes TrialNet, screens these folks for the presence of antibodies that recognize "self" tissues and could act as markers of diabetes vulnerability, and invites individuals who have the autoantibodies to take part in diabetes-prevention research. Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital are among the 18 clinical centers participating in TrialNet research.
The big news at TrialNet is that, starting today, the first part of the screening process is moving online. Volunteers used to have to participate in a screening event or come to a trial center to be screened, but many people live far from these centers. At the TrialNet screening website, people can now answer a short set of questions to find out if they're eligible for TrialNet's research and give consent to participate in screening. After the online questions are complete, eligible volunteers will receive a kit in the mail that they can take to a local lab for a free screening blood test.
Researchers hope this online process will make it easier for more people to participate in type 1 diabetes research. TrialNet must screen more than 20,000 relatives of people with type 1 diabetes each year to reach its scientific goals, according to an National Institutes of Health press release about the new online screening.