Faculty research has led to a new test which could help to identify congenital hyperinsulinism at an earlier stage. This rare but
devastating disease causes low blood sugar levels in babies and infants and can lead to lifelong brain damage and permanent disability. The condition occurs when cells in the pancreas release too much insulin and cause frequent low blood sugar episodes. In the most serious cases, the pancreas may need to be removed.
In more than two thirds of infants who suffer from congenital hyperinsulinism, the genetic causes are unknown. After analysing the genes and hormones of thirteen infants with the disease at Manchester Children’s Hospital, Dr Karen Cosgrove and her team discovered the new way of testing.
Their test measures a pair of hormones called incretins, which tell the cells in the pancreas to release more insulin to regulate sugar levels in our blood. When a child’s body releases more incretin hormones than is normal, the pancreas will release too much insulin. This will cause dangerously low blood sugar levels. Dr Cosgrove explained:
“This is the first step to understanding what causes the disease in these particular patients (with unknown genetic causes.) In future, the test may influence how these children are treated medically, perhaps even avoiding the need to have their pancreas removed. Although we are the first researchers to report high incretin hormone levels in patients with congenital hyperinsulinism, further studies are needed to see if our test works on a larger group of patients.”
You can watch Dr Cosgrove discussing the research below: