Diabetes researcher Helena Elding Larsson wants to prevent type 1 diabetes from developing
Since Helena Elding Larsson began her career as a diabetes researcher and paediatrician, she has seen many improvements in the care of patients with diabetes. Her own research focuses on the prevention of the development of type 1 diabetes. Helena Elding Larsson is this year’s recipient of the Medeon stipend, and she will be speaking at the World Diabetes Day Skåne event, in Malmö on November 12th.
As a diabetes researcher at Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC), a paediatrician, and head of the pediatric department at Skåne University Hospital, Helena Elding Larsson has met many children with type 1 diabetes. In the last few years, there have been major technological developments in diabetes care that make it possible to monitor changes in blood glucose levels in a way that was previously not possible. However, for families with children who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the adjustments are still extensive.
“Young children cannot monitor their blood sugar levels without the help of an adult. Many teenagers find it difficult to have type 1 diabetes, during a period of life where independence is very important. Some teenagers want to manage the disease entirely on their own, whilst others feel overwhelmed. Type 1 diabetes is also still associated with complications, despite all the recent medical advances,” says Helena Elding Larsson, adjunct professor in paediatrics at Lund University.
Helena Elding Larsson was recently awarded this year’s Medeon stipend for her contributions to the development of clinically applicable methods for the prediction and prevention of type 1 diabetes. Medeon Science Park together with Moll Wendén Law Firm annually award the Medeon stipend of SEK 50,000 to a researcher at LUDC. The stipend will be presented in connection with World Diabetes Day Skåne on November 12th.
Switching on the immune defence
Helena Elding Larsson leads a research group in paediatric endocrinology at LUDC and runs several studies where the goal is to try to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes. Her studies are often carried out in collaboration with other international research groups.
The POInT study investigates if the development of type 1 diabetes can be prevented in children with an increased risk of the disease using preventive oral insulin treatments. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune defence has attacked the pancreatic beta cells so they can no longer produce insulin.
“We want to train the child’s immune defence to better tolerate the insulin produced by the body itself to prevent the immune system from destroying the beta cells. Research suggests that something happens in the immune defence when type 1 diabetes develops. In our studies, we try to switch on the immune defence to reduce the risk of the disease breaking out,” says Helena Elding Larsson.
New piece of the puzzle
In the POInT study, the researchers also study the development of diabetes-related autoantibodies in children. These autoantibodies are used to identify persons at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The international research team have looked closer at the relationship between blood glucose levels and the development of autoantibodies in a study recently published in the scientific Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).
“In this study, we can see an increase in blood sugar levels in children who later develop the disease even before the first diabetes-related autoantibodies appear. The results indicate that something happens to the beta cells before the children get their first autoantibodies. The study is a new piece of the puzzle we are putting together to help us understand the disease so we can eventually prevent it.”
This year, the World Diabetes Day Skåne focuses on individualized diabetes treatment and care. In Helena Elding Larsson’s opinion, healthcare has made good advances in individualizing the treatment for children with type 1 diabetes, but there is more to be done.
“There is still a lot we can do. For example, it would be good if we could predict which of the children with type 1 diabetes will lose all insulin secretion soon after diagnosis. We could then observe these children more closely,” says Helena Elding Larsson.
Helena Elding Larsson, adjunct professor in paediatrics at Lund University and head of the pediatric department at Skåne University Hospital
+46 768 87 16 60
helena [dot] elding_larsson [at] med [dot] lu [dot] se
Helena Elding Larssons’ profile at the Lund University research portal
World Diabetes Day Skåne
World Diabetes Day Skåne is arranged on Saturday the 12th of November at Quality hotel view in Malmö in connection with the global annual World Diabetes Day. The day raises awareness about the millions of people who live with the disease. This year, World Diabetes Day Skåne focuses particularly on individualized care and treatment for patients with diabetes.
During the event, researchers will present the latest in diabetes research and companies active within the area of diabetes will exhibit their work. The Medeon stipend will be presented in connection with the event. This stipend is awarded annually to a researcher at LUDC. Scientific journalist Lisa Kirsebom will be moderating the World Diabetes Day Skåne 2022.
Type 1 diabetes
Insulin is a hormone required for the cells to absorb sugar (glucose) from the blood. In type 1 diabetes, the body has stopped producing insulin and the person ends up with too much glucose in the blood. A person with type 1 diabetes needs to control their blood glucose and take insulin. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes can cause different complications. Ketoacidosis can develop in persons with high blood glucose levels and a concurrent lack of insulin. Insulin sensitivity can develop if blood glucose levels drop heavily. High blood glucose levels are harmful to the blood vessels and can cause visual impairment, reduced kidney function, myocardial infarction, stroke, and angina.