Could Genetic Testing Help Determine a Diabetes Diagnosis?

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It’s crucial that people with diabetes are diagnosed with the correct type because the wrong diagnosis could be fatal. People with Type 2 diabetes are most often treated with improved diet, weight loss, and oral medications. Patients with Type 1 diabetes are dependent upon insulin because their immune systems destroy the beta cells that produce natural insulin. As more of the population becomes obese, a trait that is associated with Type 2 diabetes, it’s becoming harder for doctors to diagnose the disease. However, a new genetic test could make things easier.

Doctors base the diagnosis of diabetes types almost entirely on weight and age, says Dr. Richard Oram, a diabetes and nephrology expert and a clinical lecturer for the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom. This is why he and his team at the University of Exeter Medical School have created a new genetic test that is relatively inexpensive and that he thinks may help improve the diagnosis of the disease.


The genetic test measures 30 genetic variants and produces a score based on the risk factors associated with those genes and Type 1 diabetes. A high score means that the tested individual is more likely to have Type 1 diabetes, while a low score means that the person is more likely to have Type 2 diabetes. With an indication from the genetic test of which type is more likely to occur, the doctor can go ahead with the standard test for antibodies.


Oram believes that the genetic test can give patients a better understanding of their condition and improve their attitude toward treatment and blood sugar management. It may also reduce the risk for the life-threatening complications that can occur with misdiagnoses. Oram and his team are also developing a bench-side test so that clinical laboratories can complete quick and inexpensive analyses.Fewer than 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, and numerous patients are misdiagnosed every year. Find out how you can fund diabetes research to help improve its diagnosis.

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