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August 30, 2001

Genetics and Heredity

Question from Milan, Illinois, USA:

Six months ago, my then 16 month old grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and, last week, his eight year old sister started showing symptoms and was diagnosed, even though she had had her blood sugar levels checked several times prior to this. How can this happen to both my grandchildren in such a short time?

Answer:

With one first degree relative (her brother) diagnosed with type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes, the chances of the same problem occurring in the sister would have been about 1 in 20. Since this is in part a genetic problem, she might also have been of a type that was especially at risk. It is probable that the autoimmune process had been developing in the sister for many years, and it was just happenstance that she finally became insulin dependent when she did.

DOB