Right now, there are a variety of methods available to assess someone’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes. As we recently discussed on this blog, tests for antibodies in the blood of people with a family history of diabetes can predict this risk with a high degree of accuracy. And genetic testing may be helpful in identifying who is at an elevated risk for developing these antibodies in the first place. More experimentally, there is a newly discovered way to identify early beta cell death at the onset of the type 1 disease process, before someone shows any symptoms or develops elevated blood glucose levels.
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As promising and potentially transformative as all these tests and developments might be, they all require a visit to a doctor’s office or another healthcare facility. For many people, this may be a barrier to getting screened. That’s why it’s noteworthy that a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant to a company that’s working to develop risk assessment tests for type 1 diabetes that can be taken at home.
Enable Biosciences, a healthcare diagnostics company established to commercialize technology licensed by the University of California, Berkeley, announced in a press release that it has received a grant of nearly $1.5 million from the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to help develop techniques for at-home type 1 diabetes risk screening tests. These tests would involve collecting a small blood sample that’s sent to a lab, as a dried blood spot, for testing.
There are many technological barriers to getting accurate results from mailed-in samples on existing tests, and the NIDDK grant will be used to help advance “efforts to automate the extraction of dried blood spots” for use with Enable’s “award-winning autoimmune diabetes test.”
The press release notes that new preventive therapies for type 1 diabetes, as well as monitoring to help prevent emergency hospitalization at the onset of the condition, depend on screening tests, so making these tests easier and more widely available could potentially both save money and help people stay healthier.
“The ability to collect samples in the convenience of the home is a major step to ensure that all patients reap the benefits of breakthrough therapies,” says Enable Biosciences COO Peter Robinson, PhD, in the press release. “The NIDDK’s support for this project will lower the barrier to universal screening.”
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.