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Research reveals insulin levels undergo “seven year switch” in type 1 diabetes

Insulin levels in people with Type 1 diabetes drop rapidly for seven years after diagnosis before stabilising, new research has revealed.

The team at the University of Exeter Medical School found evidence that the amount of insulin produced declines by almost 50% each year for seven years, before stabilising. At that point, the levels either plateau or decline far more slowly.

The new research, funded by the Health Innovation Challenge Fund and JDRF, is a major step forward in understanding type 1 diabetes. The finding contradicts previous beliefs that the insulin produced by people with the condition drops relentlessly with time.

The study, published in Diabetes Care, measured C-peptide, which is produced at the same time and in the same quantities as the insulin that regulates blood sugar. By measuring C-peptide levels in blood or in urine, scientists can tell how much insulin a person is producing themselves, even if they are taking insulin injections as treatment. .

Dr Beverley Shields, at the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said: “This finding is really exciting. It suggests that a person with type 1 diabetes will keep the working beta-cells they have seven years after diagnosis.

“We are not sure why this is; it may well be there is a small group of ‘resilient’ beta-cells that are resistant to immune attack and these are left after all the ‘susceptible’ beta-cells are destroyed within seven years. Understanding what is special about these ‘resilient’ beta-cells may open new pathways to treatment for Type 1 diabetes.”

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