Up to three million Americans have type 1 diabetes, a disease with no cure and an unknown cause. What doctors do know about the disease is that people who have it also have smaller pancreases.
A new discovery could carry a lot of weight when it comes to eventually beating the disease.
Jordan Perkins was only eight when she found out that she had the disease.
“It was a surprise,” she said, and since then she has to prick her finger and take insulin shots five times a day in order to manage the disease.
Jordan’s pancreas stopped producing insulin when her immune system started attacking the insulin-producing beta cells in her body. Doctors are on their way to figuring out why some people’s bodies start attacking these cells.
One of those doctors is Dr. Martha Campbell-Thompson, a professor of pathology at the University of Florida. She and her team weighed pancreases from 165 deceased donors.
They found that pancreases at high risk for developing type 1 diabetes weight 25 percent less than normal ones.
"This implies that even before one becomes diabetic, you may have fewer insulin producing beta cells. Could be happening many years before signs of diabetes occur,” said Dr. Campbell-Thompson.
The pathologist says she wants to work with ongoing diabetes studies to determine if people with varying degrees of diabetes also risk having smaller pancreases.
According to Dr. Campbell-Thompson, she wants to "Measure their pancreas volume using something like as simple and safe as ultrasound."
Finding patterns in pancreas weight could help doctors predict risk, treat the disease and potentially prevent kids like Jordan from ever having to deal with diabetes.
A pilot study at the University of Florida is in the works that would further examine the findings of Dr. Campbell-Thompson.