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Unleashing the Potential of Precision Medicine in Diabetes Care

Precision Medicine

An International Endeavor to Revolutionize Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention


A groundbreaking era of “precision medicine” has opened up remarkable possibilities in transforming the landscape of diabetes diagnosis, treatment, and, ultimately, prevention.

An international coalition of over 200 experts from 28 countries has meticulously examined the scientific literature, unveiling both the current state of precision medicine’s influence on diabetes care and its promising future.

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This consensus report serves as a roadmap for enhancing patient care, pinpointing areas where precision medicine has already left an indelible mark, and underlining critical research needs.

The Essence of Precision Diabetes Medicine

Precision medicine signifies a paradigm shift, where healthcare is customized to the individual rather than employing a one-size-fits-all approach.

This approach, well-known in cancer research, tailors treatments to each person’s unique needs. However, precision medicine in diabetes is distinct – it groups individuals based on shared disease characteristics, treatment responses, and risk factors.

It melds genetic information, lifestyle factors, and other crucial aspects to provide each individual with tailored care. The ultimate goal of precision medicine is to optimize treatment outcomes, ensuring that each person receives the precise care they need.

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Pioneering Steps: The Precision Medicine in Diabetes Initiative

In 2018, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) announced the Precision Medicine in Diabetes Initiative.

This international effort has now produced a second consensus report, highlighting significant progress in implementing precision medicine. Notably, precision medicine has revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of monogenic diabetes, a type caused by a single gene mutation that accounts for 2%-3% of diabetes cases.

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The Potential in Various Diabetes Forms

Precision medicine is not limited to one form of diabetes. In the case of gestational diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes for both mother and child, maternal factors like age, BMI, and family history can predict the success of treatment.

In the realm of type 1 diabetes prevention, genetic risk classification has emerged as a promising avenue for immediate clinical application.

UVA researchers have made significant strides in identifying 90% of the genetic risk for type 1 diabetes, enabling doctors to assess children’s genetic predisposition.

For type 2 diabetes, the consensus report sheds light on how routine clinical features can predict the efficacy of various drug treatments.

It also proposes a more precise sub-classification for this common form of diabetes, which encompasses nearly 90% of all diabetes cases.

Acknowledging Research Gaps and Expanding Horizons

While the consensus report underscores the potential of precision medicine in enhancing clinical practices, it also highlights gaps in knowledge and the necessity for refined research methods. One notable gap is the underrepresentation of diverse populations in existing research.

Most studies have predominantly involved individuals of European Caucasian ancestry from well-resourced countries, often lacking robust statistical support for their findings.

To address this, researchers advocate for more comprehensive studies, utilizing multiple data sources, cost-effective biomarker assays, and an understanding of both clinical and social/behavioral factors across the lifespan.

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The journey towards precision medicine in diabetes is a transformative one, redefining how we approach diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

With each stride forward, we inch closer to personalized care that maximizes outcomes for every individual.

The recently unveiled consensus report serves as a beacon, guiding us toward a future where diabetes care is as unique as the individuals it serves.

Presented by Dr. Paul Franks, Scientific Director in Medical Science and Head of Translational Medicine at the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the main findings of the consensus report were shared at the EASD Annual Meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

The report was concurrently published in Nature Medicine to coincide with the EASD symposium.

Simultaneously, the systematic evidence reviews presented in the consensus report are being published in Communications Medicine, and a similar series of papers on precision medicine will be published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.