Press release

Trial leads to genetically tailored diabetes treatments for first time

Quotes from Wellcome Trust researchers at the Peninsula Medical School Professor Andrew Hattersley and Dr Ewan Pearson, lead authors on the report on genetically tailored treatments for diabetes, published in this week's edition of the Lancet.

What does it mean?

Dr Ewan Pearson:
"We know that one person's diabetes is not the same as another's. There are different types. People with many of these subtypes are treated as type 2 diabetes because it is poorly defined condition. We have shown that the subtypes of diabetes can respond differently to treatment."

"Our trial showed that a persons genetic makeup determines their response to treatment. This is the first trial showing how a pharmacogenetic [personalised] approach to diabetes treatment is informed by their genes."

"Some diabetics are very sensitive to drugs called sulphonylureas. If they are started on too high a dose their blood sugar can drop suddenly. We found that knowing their genetic background helped refine the dose we give. Whilst we previously thought some people not been able to take these drugs, we now know that all they needed was a lower dose."

"We hope this research will mean that some people with type 2 diabetes will have much more specific treatments designed for them."

Professor Andrew Hattersley:

"Dissecting the cause of diabetes will improve the treatment. Our study shows that rather than a trial and error approach to treatment we can have a guided one, based on genetic knowledge."

What should people with diabetes do? Can anyone have the test?

Dr Ewan Pearson:
"We run an NHS referral centre in Exeter where we can diagnose genetic causes of diabetes. It is important to note that not everyone with diabetes is suitable for this test. We are only able to test people who show evidence of inherited diabetes, in most cases these are people who are notinsulin-dependent and where the condition started below the age of 25. We want people to be aware that there are different forms of diabetes."

"Once we have identified a genetic cause for a patients' diabetes we can advise the patient's doctor on the best course of treatment. If patients and clinicians would like more information they can visit our website"

"The cost varies but is around £420 per patient. It seems a lot but if we can identify the cause of diabetes we can better treat patients and properly council them on the risk of passing their diabetes on to children. So it is money well spent."