Mikael Knip

Towards the prevention of type 1 diabetes

Mikael Knip HUS

Professor Mikael Knip’s PEDIA research group studies type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents and other immune-mediated diseases such as celiac disease and allergies. Why is diabetes so common in Finland? Is it possible to prevent the development of immune-mediated diseases?

The research group is currently particularly interested in the intestinal microbiota, i.e. the importance of intestinal bacteria, viruses and fungi in the development of immune-mediated diseases. According to the group’s hypothesis, the intestinal microbiota has a two-stage effect on the development of type 1 diabetes.

– At first, a weak immune system exposes children to immune-mediated diseases in infancy. At the second stage, the dysbiosis of the intestinal microbiota and the lack of diversity of these bacteria in toddlers lead to the progression of the disease from an asymptomatic initial stage to clinical symptoms and diagnosis, Knip explains.

The objective of studying immune-mediated diseases is to find ways of effectively preventing the onset of these diseases.

Do probiotics prevent the onset of diabetes?

Knip’s group attempts to identify the various phenotypes of type 1 diabetes and to produce new information on how the intestinal microbiota affects the training and maturation of the immune system in infants and small children and how the various intestinal microbial groups work together to affect the child’s risk of developing an immune-mediated disease.

– We attempt to assess whether children at risk may be prevented from developing type 1 diabetes by administering a specific probiotic from the age of less than 14 days until the age of 6 months.

The long-term objective is to develop safe and effective methods for the prevention of diabetes and to learn about the effects of intestinal microbiota on pediatric health.

The effective prevention of type 1 diabetes would significantly reduce its prevalence in the Finnish pediatric population and thus improve the quality of life for children and their families.

The PEDIA research group was created in 2000 after Mikael Knip became Professor of Pediatrics at Helsinki. Before this, Knip closely cooperated with Professor Hans Åkerblom and his research group.

The research group includes approximately 30 members with medical, genetic, epidemiological, immunological and nutritional competencies as well as competencies in nursing science.

The group has collaborated with Professor Ramnik Xavier from Boston and his research group which is active at the Broad Institute. Dr. Xavier is an expert in gastroenterology and molecular biology.

– We successfully combined unique clinical research material (DIABIMMUNE) and cutting-edge methods for studying intestinal microbiota and for analyzing the results by means of bioinformatics, Mikael Knip says.

Contact details:
Mikael Knip
Helsinki University Hospital Children and Adolescents