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February 25, 2008

Genetics and Heredity, Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Egypt:

My 19-year-old girlfriend has had type 1 diabetes 10 years or more. Her two nephews also have type 1. Neither her father or mother was diabetic. or even her grandfather or grandmother. What is the likelihood that our children would have diabetes? Is genetic mapping helpful for determining the chances that babies will have diabetes or not?


Genetic testing is helpful in a research setting but is very expensive and not very specific – so, usually, it is not done. The risks if you do not have diabetes and your girlfriend has diabetes for a child with diabetes are in the neighborhood of 2 to 5%. If you are a pessimist, that is certainly increased because we know that there is some genetic risks for a mother to pass this risk to the child. If you are an optimist, that is 95 to 98% chance of no child with diabetes. There are some things one can do to decrease these risks, i.e., exclusive breast feeding for the first 12 months provides protection for the infant/child by avoiding food exposures. Avoiding wheat/gluten in some research studies also provides some additional protection as well.