The study is being led by Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, Director of the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the DZD’s type 1 diabetes program. At the launch event in Munich, she stressed the significance of this most common metabolic disorder in childhood: “Across Germany about 15,000 children under the age of 14 are affected by type 1 diabetes, and we expect these numbers to continue to increase.”
Diabetes usually strikes children suddenly, and for the young patients and their families it is totally unexpected. Not infrequently this disorder is diagnosed when blood sugar exceeds life-threatening levels. “Thanks to tests involving antibodies that are typically present in diabetes we can already diagnose the disease months or years before its onset,” Professor Ziegler says. “This gives the children and their relatives valuable time to prepare themselves for managing the disease.” As part of the Fr1da study, scientists are also conducting research into innovative approaches with a view to delaying or even preventing the onset of the disease. The purpose of the screening program is to identify participants who could benefit from such a treatment.
Bavaria’s Minister for Public Health and Care Services, Melanie Huml, has assumed patronage of the project, which is the only one of its kind in Germany. At the opening event held in Munich, she commented: “With the Fr1da study we are treading a new path in terms of preventive health care in Bavaria. By means of a simple blood test we can now determine whether a child is at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better it can be treated. I was very glad to accept the patronage of this study. As a health minister and also as the mother of a young son, it is a matter of immense importance to me that the parents of chronically ill children receive support from the very outset.”
The Helmholtz Zentrum München has longstanding experience and outstanding expertise in population-based studies and clinical trials. “If this scientific study succeeds, it will mark a milestone in the prevention of type 1 diabetes,” said Professor Günther Wess, CEO of the Helmholtz Zentrum München. “The huge international interest in this study reflects its global significance.”
Musical accompaniment at the launch event for Fr1da was provided by the Bavarian duo Sternschnuppe (shooting star) comprising Margit Sarholz and Werner Meier, who perform children’s songs. In future, Sternschnuppe will also act as an ambassador for the project. Frida, incidentally, is the name of the main protagonist in a newly published book about diabetes, which has been written specially for parents.
To date, project partners of the Fr1da study have been the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the Professional Association of Pediatricians (Bavarian Branch), the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority as well as the Bavarian Pediatric Network (PaedNetz Bayern). The project is sponsored by the Helmholtz Zentrum München, Healthy Living in Bavaria (a health initiative launched by the Bavarian State Ministry of Public Health and Care Services), the Bavarian Association of Company Health Insurance Funds and the U.S.-based organization JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)).
More detailed information for participants and doctors on the aims of the screening program and related procedures is available on the Fr1da study website at www.typ1diabetes-frueherkennung.de (in German only)
Test run for a national screening program: www.aerzteblatt.de/archiv/162946/FR1da-Studie-Testlauf-fuer-ein-nationales-Screening, article from the Deutsches Ärzteblatt on the Fr1da study published in Perspektiven der Diabetologie, October 2014