Prediction and Prevention of Type 1 Diabetes in Children
Department of Pediatrics, University of Chieti, Italy
Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is the typical example of a T cell-mediated autoimmune disease characterized by selective destruction of pancreatic β cells. The pathogenic equation for T1DM presents a complex interrelation of genetic and environmental factors, most of which have yet to be identified. On the basis of observed familial aggregation of T1DM, it is certain that there is a decided heritable genetic susceptibility for developing T1DM. The well-known association of T1DM with certain human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) was a major step toward understanding the role of inheritance in T1DM. T1DM is a polygenic disease with a small number of genes having large effects (e.g., HLA) and a large number of genes having small effects. Risk of T1DM progression is conferred by specific HLA DR/DQ alleles [e.g., DRB1*03-DQB1*0201 (DR3/DQ2) or DRB1*04-DQB1*0302 (DR4/DQ8)].
In addition, the HLA allele DQB1*0602 is associated with dominant protection from T1DM in multiple populations. A concordance rate lower than 100% between monozygotic twins indicates a potential involvement of environmental factors on disease development. The detection of at least two islet autoantibodies in the blood is virtually pre-diagnostic for T1DM and should be classified as a stage of the disease. In fact, the majority of children who carry these biomarkers, regardless of whether they have an a priori family history of the disease, will develop insulin-requiring diabetes. Facilitating pre-diagnosis is the timing of seroconversion which is most pronounced in the first 2 yr of life. Unfortunately, the significant progress in improving prediction of T1DM has not yet been paralleled by safe and efficacious intervention strategies aimed at preventing the disease. Therefore the history of prediction and prevention of T1DM must describe successes and failures alike; future trends could open new perspectives in T1DM prevention.
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