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Diabetes is actually 'five different diseases' - study

05 March 2018 09:23

Scientists have revealed that diabetes is five separate diseases

Scientists have revealed that diabetes is five separate diseases

Scientists have revealed that diabetes is actually five separate diseases and say that treatment could be tailored to treat each individual form.

While diabetes is normally split into Type 1 and Type 2, researchers in Sweden and Finland claim the disease is more complex than we thought.

They feel their discovery will pave the way for personalised medicine for diabetes sufferers.

Five distinct types

Diabetes affects one in 11 adults worldwide, and increases the risk of other illnesses such as stroke and heart failure.

Type 1 is considered an attack on the immune system, meaning the body is unable to correctly control insulin. Type 2, on the other hand, is largely thought to be a result of poor lifestyle, as body fat can affect the way insulin works.

The research, undertaken by Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden and the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, looked at 14,775 patients including a detailed analysis of their blood.

Five distinct types of diabetes were revealed in the patients.

Group 1 had severe autoimmune diabetes, broadly similar to Type 1 - the disease came on as a result of a disease in the immune system.

Group 2 was severe insulin-deficient diabetes - also caused in early life, but not because of faults within the immune system.

Group 3 had insulin-resistant diabetes; patients were severely overweight, and, while their bodies were producing insulin, they were not responding to it.

Group 4 patients suffered from mild obesity-related diabetes. This meant that despite being overweight, these patients were much metabolically closer to normal than those in group 3.

Group 5's diabetes was age-related - their symptoms came on later in life than members of the other groups, and their disease was milder.

'Not a terribly accurate classification system'

Dr Victoria Salem, a consultant and clinical scientist at Imperial College London, said most specialists knew that Type 1 and Type 2 was "not a terribly accurate classification system".

But while she says that this is "the future of how we think about diabetes", she also warns that treatments are not going to change immediately.

Professor of Medicine at Warwick Medical School Sudhesh Kumar, said: "Clearly this is only the first step.

"We also need to know if treating these groups differently would produce better outcomes."

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