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Grant to Study Diabetes and Celiac Disease

CU School of Medicine


AURORA, Colo. – The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has been awarded a $1.2 million grant by the JDRF and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to develop the Autoimmunity Screening for Kids (ASK) Program.

The ASK program aims to develop ways to intercept and prevent the two most frequent autoimmune diseases of childhood: type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Researchers at the Barbara Davis Center will use the grant to launch a screening program that will identify children at high risk for developing these conditions. Those identified through will receive education and close ongoing monitoring that has been shown to prevent complications at diagnosis. They would also have the opportunity to participate in specially designed prevention studies.

“Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease affect at least 1 percent of children in the general population,” said Marian Rewers, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the CU School of Medicine and executive director of the Barbara Davis Center. “Ninety percent of these patients have no close relatives who are affected by these diseases, so they often experience a delay in care and, as a result, severe complications.” 

Currently, there is no routine screening for pre-type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. This grant will allow a planning phase to explore promising locations for such screening including primary care pediatric offices, hospital-based health care organizations, schools, state and local preventive services and community health centers. Rewers said the Barbara Davis Center will collaborate with a network of Denver metro pediatricians, Children’s Hospital Colorado and community partners to launch an awareness campaign about childhood autoimmune disease and to build an effective screening program. A three-year mass screening, to start next summer, will include 50,000-70,000 Denver metro children ages 2-17 and will likely provide strong evidence for adding these tests to routine pediatric practice.