Film for thought

A new animated short film discusses the importance of diabetes classification. The video details the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, in addition to MODY (maturity-onset diabetes of the young), and discusses the importance of diabetes classification and the risk of being misdiagnosed – particularly among young people with diabetes and people from black and minority ethnic groups (BAME). 

The film is based on the DRWF-funded MY DIABETES study by Dr Shivani Misra, Consultant in Metabolic Medicine and Honorary Research Fellow at Imperial College London. Dr Misra said: “Do you see a BAME person with diabetes and think it must be Type 2 diabetes? Think again! We co-designed this animation with black and Asian people with diabetes, highlighting misconceptions and some of my preliminary research.” 

Dr Misra, who was recently appointed to the  DRWF Board of Trustees, set up the MY DIABETES study in 2013, with recruitment support from the NIHR Clinical Research Network. The study focuses on classifying types of diabetes in people with young-onset diabetes from different ethnic groups to investigate the question of ethnicity’s impact on diabetes presentation and type. One of the people with diabetes, whose story is shared in the film, was recruited to the MY DIABETES study by Dr Misra, who adds, “I’m delighted we were able to publish these data. It’s been fantastic for the family involved as, in some members, after more than 10 years of being on insulin injections for an incorrect diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, we’ve been able to stop insulin and start a tablet instead. As a diabetes researcher and doctor, I’m very happy that the study has led to some positive outcomes for individuals with diabetes.” 

MODY is a genetic form of diabetes that is treated differently to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This can develop in people who have mutations in a gene called HNF1A. 

While recognising these cases can be a challenge for healthcare professionals, it is critical so that the person being diagnosed can be treated precisely for their specific diabetes type. For example, someone misclassified could potentially stop taking insulin and be prescribed alternative medications. Researchers previously believed that HNF1A mutations affected just one copy of the gene, not both. However, the latest studies by Misra have found that a family could carry mutations in both copies of the HNF1A gene and have typical features of HNF1A mutations that cause diabetes. Her research found that this particular mutation is mild when one gene is affected and may not cause diabetes but, if both copies of the gene are affected, the individual develops young-onset HNF1A-type diabetes. 

As more and more people are studied to detect genetic forms of diabetes, they may encounter unusual genetic variants that may initially be dismissed as mild but if inherited in a certain way, could lead to the development of diabetes. 

The DRWF-funded study has since recruited more than 1,600 people from different ethnic groups with young-onset diabetes, at various sites around England. 

Watch the video HERE




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