Through its Pediatric Growth and Nutrition Branch, the NICHD is supporting a randomized controlled trial of a nutritional intervention to reduce type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) in children who are at increased genetic risk for this autoimmune disease at 77 sites in 15 countries. The trial is designed to determine whether weaning infants from the breast to a cow-milk-based formula in which the milk proteins have been hydrolyzed reduces their risk for T1DM.
Results from a small pilot study of 230 genetically-at-risk infants were highly encouraging. This research showed a 50% reduction in appearance of autoantibodies directed against the insulin producing cells (beta cells) of the pancreas in the group assigned to protein hydrolysate formula. These autoantibodies are used as markers of diabetes risk and appear to be involved in the attack on the beta cells (PMID: 21064382).