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Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Scientist Develops Combination of Tests To Predict Diabetes; First Step Toward Vaccine Development

National Institutes of Health awards $4 million in grants to Massimo Pietropaolo, MD

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh diabetes researcher two, five-year grants totaling approximately $4 million to study markers that predict who will develop type 1 diabetes. This research opens the door for clinical trials and the potential development of new therapeutic strategies in an effort to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Massimo Pietropaolo, MD, a researcher in the Division of Immunogenetics at Children's Hospital, is studying the effectiveness of combining various tests to predict who will develop type 1 diabetes, a crucial first step if new successful therapies are to be developed.

By combining an older chemical test, known as an islet cell antibody assay, with two newer biochemical tests known as GAD65 and IA-2, Dr. Pietropaolo and colleagues have been able to more accurately predict type 1 diabetes in family members of those with type 1 diabetes. By combining the three tests, they predicted with 80 percent accuracy who would develop type 1 diabetes in a study of nearly 1,500 individuals who were first-degree relatives of type 1 diabetics. This is the highest level of accuracy ever achieved in predicting type 1 diabetes.

Results of this research are published in the December 2005 issue of Pediatric Diabetes.

"In order to develop a vaccine or cure for diabetes, scientists must first be able to accurately identify those at risk, because it is unknown whether the vaccine will cause harm or effectively prevent the disease," Dr. Pietropaolo said. "By using this combination of tests, we now have the tools to predict type 1 diabetes, particularly in relatives of type 1 diabetic patients. This opens the door for researchers to screen patients for clinical trials of a vaccine because we know who is most likely to develop diabetes."

In the course of this research, Dr. Pietropaolo and colleagues also have discovered a new protein that may forecast a more rapidly developing form of type 1 diabetes. Work is now under way in his laboratory at Children's to study the protein he discovered (a subtype of islet cell antibodies) to determine why it may cause a rapid onset of type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Pietropaolo is a scientist in the Division of Immunogenetics at Children's. He also is an associate professor of pediatrics, medicine and immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as well as an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Learn more about diabetes research and care at Children's.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 18, 2008
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Last Update
February 18, 2008