Global Increase in Juvenile Diabetes Gets Worldwide Attention: The Canadian perspective in landmark study

The incidence of childhood diabetes is on the rise around the world. Although the reasons for the trend are not clear it is now believed that environmental factors increase the risk of diabetes in people who are genetically susceptible. If these environmental factors could be identified and eliminated, it might be possible to decrease the number of children who develop Type 1 or juvenile diabetes.

Approximately 200,000 Canadians have Type I diabetes and require daily insulin injections. Type 1 Diabetes hardens small blood vessels and is the leading cause of blindness, heart and kidney disease, stroke and loss of limbs.

The Research Study: “TRIGR”

Approximately 6,000 families worldwide who have a history of Type 1 diabetes and are expecting a baby are being recruited for the TRIGR or Trial to Reduce IDDM (Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Type 1 Diabetes) in the Genetically at Risk study in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia. After birth, mothers are encouraged and supported to breastfeed. If formula is used prior to eight months of age, the babies receive infant formulas that contain no, or a reduced amount of, the intact foreign food proteins typically found in baby formulas and cow’s milk. In this way researchers will determine if early exposure to a large protein found in cow’s milk is one of the “triggers” for Type 1 diabetes.

The total budget for this 10-year study will exceed $50 million of which the Nationwide Canadian trial branch includes $10 million. Over 40 centres in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia are involved in TRIGR. The coordinating centre for this international study is in Finland, led by Dr.Hans K. Akerblom. The Canadian study is led by Dr. John Dupré of the Robarts Research Institute, London, Ontario.

Well over 2000 pregnant mothers with a family history of Type 1 Diabetes have been recruited to date.

In addition to the Robarts Research Institute the participating sites are: The Hospital for Sick Children, Université Laval, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, University of Western Ontario and University of Manitoba.