Scientific highlights

21.10.2019

Study on early detection of type 1 diabetes reaches milestone and continues

The Institute of Diabetes Research of the Helmholtz Zentrum München has now registered 100,000 participants in the Bavarian study "Fr1da" on the early detection of type 1 diabetes. The study will be continued with an additional age group under the name "Fr1da-plus": in addition to 2 to 5-year-olds, 9 and 10-year-old children can now also participate in the study.

Type 1 diabetes is the most common metabolic disease in children and adolescents. By participating in "Fr1da", numerous children were diagnosed at an early stage and thus the risk of a life-threatening metabolic disorder could be prevented. The world's first population-wide study for early detection of type 1 diabetes in children has been conducted in Bavaria since 2015 under the name "Fr1da - Type 1 Diabetes: Early detection – Optimal treatment at an early stage". Participation in the screening is free. The simple blood test can be carried out for children aged 2 to 5 years and now also for 9 and 10-year-olds under the new name "Fr1da-plus". Participant number 100,000 is the two-year-old Simon from Ingolstadt.

The patron of "Fr1da", Bavaria's Minister of Health Melanie Huml emphasized: "The Fr1da study is a figurehead in Bavarian health research. I am very pleased that so many children have already benefited from this unique opportunity and that even more families will be given some form of certainty in the future. My aim is to make parents more aware of diabetes in children. Throughout Bavaria, around 4,500 children, adolescents and young adults under the age of 20 are affected by the chronic metabolic disease type 1 diabetes, which is currently incurable."

The vast majority of families could breathe a sigh of relief after the test: no type 1 diabetes. If an early stage is excluded during the test, the probability of the disease occurring later is very low.

"Type 1 diabetes affects more and more children every year, and in most cases families are shocked by the diagnosis. Particularly serious are those cases that are hospitalized with a dangerous metabolic disorder (ketoacidosis) because the first symptoms remained undetected. The early detection study provides sensitization and training for the parents and can thus help to avoid life-threatening conditions," mentions Prof. Dr. Matthias Tschöp, CEO of Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Children diagnosed with an early stage of type 1 diabetes in the "Fr1da" study were given an individual check-up plan. The affected families were personally informed, trained and advised. The chance to benefit from the prevention study "Fr1da insulin intervention" was seized by 158 families. The "Fr1da insulin intervention" study tries to slow down or stop the progression of the disease by taking oral insulin.

"Our goal is to delay or prevent the progression of autoimmune type 1 diabetes through treatment with oral insulin," explains Prof. Dr. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, Director of the Institute of Diabetes Research of the Helmholtz Zentrum München. "We are committed not only to early diagnosis and treatment, but also to finding a way to prevent type 1 diabetes. We work for a world without type 1 diabetes."

Dr. Martin Lang, paediatrician from Augsburg, chairman of the Bavarian Association of Paediatricians and board member of PaedNetz Bayern e.V., confirms: "The demand shows us that families have a strong interest in having their children tested for an early stage of type 1 diabetes. That is why I and about half of all Bavarian paediatricians support the early detection of this chronic disease. We are pleased that the opportunity of an early diagnosis is still provided with "Fr1da-plus"."

Screening for type 1 helps to detect the disease at an early stage and thus treat it well. Life-threatening hyperglycaemia is avoided. Families can be trained early on and receive the best possible care. Participation in innovative prevention studies is also made possible.

The Pröhl Family, who participated with their children in the "Fr1da" study, says: "We immediately agreed that our children should benefit from free early diagnosis. Of course, we were relieved when nothing was found in our children. If the result had been different, we would still have wanted to know as early as possible. Only in this way our two children could receive an optimal treatment at an early stage." 

Further information about the "Fr1da" study: www.typ1diabetes-frueherkennung.de

The Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) focuses on the understanding of the natural history of type 1 diabetes, on the identification of mechanisms and predictive markers of the disease, and the translation of findings into trials to prevent type 1 diabetes in man. In particular, the institute’s aim is to develop an immune tolerance using antigen-based therapy. The IDF conducts long-term studies to examine the link between genes, environmental factors and the immune system for the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. Findings of the BABYDIAB study, which was established in 1989 as the world’s first prospective birth cohort study, identified the first two years of life as being most susceptible for the initiation of type 1 diabetes associated autoimmunity. The Fr1da study is the first population-based approach for the early diagnosis type 1 diabetes associated autoimmunity in childhood. The IDF is part of the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC).

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus, allergies and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,500 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 19 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 37,000 staff members. 

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