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Health Check Kids: Insulin dependence in children

Health Check Kids: Insulin dependence in children. Insulin pump file image. (WJAR)

Researchers are looking for new way of diagnosing type 1 diabetes.

That’s the idea behind a national study that is recruiting family members of children with the insulin-dependent disease.

That’s how 6-year-old Henry Cross got involved. His younger brother Frank was diagnosed with Type 1 when he was ten months old.

"He presented very sick. He was in the hospital for a number of days,” said co-investigator of this study, Dr. Lisa Swartz Topor, at the Diabetes Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Frank is now insulin dependent, wearing a pump to make sure his diabetes is under control.

His brother, Henry, initially had one antibody, showing he was at risk.

"He then went through testing every six months to monitor for the development of diabetes and most recently his blood hormone levels have changed enough, he actually has diabetes now,” said Dr. Topor.

"As we're transitioning Henry into his diagnosis, having the consistency and the stability of someone who's always been present in our life is really, really crucial," said the boys’ mother, Rachel. And that’s why this family that used to live in Rhode Island makes the two hour drive-each way—from New Hampshire for regular visits.

The good news is this: Henry doesn't yet need insulin.

“His diabetes is so early in its diagnosis that we're monitoring him very closely and check his blood sugars but his pancreas is still working enough,” said Topor. “This is a completely new way of diagnosing type one diabetes."

The goal of this study, to identify those at risk early on to try to prevent it.

"And even if we can't prevent it, can we alter the natural course of it so that it comes on less dramatically,” said Topor.

"The more gently you can introduce a child to this kind of situation, the more information that you can provide researchers as they're developing new treatments,” said Rachel.

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