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Researchers Screen Type 1 Diabetics for Heart and Kidney Diseases Through Urine Test

Update Date: Nov 06, 2013 10:02 AM EST

People with chronic illness, diabetes, have to maintain their condition in order to prevent other health problems from arising. Type 1 diabetes has been tied to heart and kidney diseases and type 2 diabetes has been associated with hypertension, foot complications and stroke. In a new study funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation (BHF), researchers used a simple urine test to screen type 1 diabetics for their risks of developing heart and kidney diseases in the future.

For this study, the first one of its kind, the researchers focused on a particular protein called albumin that is usually found in blood but can also be detected in small amounts in the urine. The researchers knew that higher levels of this protein in adults with type 1 diabetes are tied to a higher risk of kidney and heart disease. So for their study, the team looked at type 1 diabetic adolescents' levels of albumin to see if the levels were tied to an increased risk of heart and kidney diseases.

The international team of researchers tested 3,353 children between the ages of 10 and 16. All of the participants were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Aside from measuring the adolescents' albumin levels, the team also looked for early signs of heart or kidney diseases. These indicators included stiffening of the arteries, abnormal blood fat profiles, and kidney function. The team discovered that adolescents with levels in the top 30 percent, which were still considered normal, might be at a greater risk of developing heart and kidney diseases. These children were already exhibiting some signs of early heart and kidney problems. They concluded that normal variation in albumin levels can inform doctors of adolescents' risks of heart and kidney diseases later in life.

"Managing type 1 diabetes is difficult enough without having to deal with other health problems. By using early screening, we can now identify young people at risk of heart and kidney disease. The next step will be to see if drugs used to treat heart and kidney disease - such as statins and blood pressure lowering drugs - can help prevent kidney and heart complications in this young, potentially vulnerable population," the lead author of the study, Professor David Dunger from the University of Cambridge, said.

Dr. Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research for Diabetes UK, added, "Every year, too many people with type 1 diabetes experience kidney failure and heart disease as a result of their diabetes and this can have a really devastating effect on their lives. By showing that people at high risk of these complications can be identified when they are children, this research offers the exciting prospect that in the future we might be able to offer treatment early to stop them from happening. While it would be a number of years before this became a widely-available treatment option, this does offer real hope of another way to help people with type 1 diabetes have the best possible chance of a long and healthy life."

In the next part of this study, the research team plan on examining different drugs and whether or not these drugs can reduce the amount of fat in the blood, which would reduce the diabetics' risks of heart and kidney diseases.. The study, "Adolescent Type 1 Diabetes Cardio-Renal Intervention Trial (AdDIT): Urinary Screening and Baseline Biochemical and Cardiovascular Assessments," was published in Diabetes Care.

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