Children who have diabetes from infancy could face an insulin-free future, according to research by a Dundee University scientist.
Patients with a genetic diabetes could swap insulin for tablets
The study found that patients with a particular type of genetic diabetes, diagnosed in early infancy, could swap insulin injection for tablets.
Dr Ewan Pearson worked closely on the study while he was at the Peninsula Medical School in Devon.
He said the sulphonylurea treatment did not work for Type 1 diabetes patients.
However, the switch to tablets worked for 90% of those who were diagnosed with diabetes before the age of six months as a result of a change in the Kir6.2 gene.
Dr Pearson said the tablets targeted the area affected by the genetic change and helped restore the secretion of insulin in response to food.
Ann-Marie Davies noticed marked changes in her baby when he was able to change from insulin injections to tablets.
Matthew had been treated with insulin since he was diagnosed with a very high blood sugar when he was two months old.
She said: "It has been a fantastic change and he is so much happier. His blood sugars are so much better and he loves his food."
Dr Pearson, who is now a clinical lecturer at Dundee University, said it was rare to find such an excellent response to any treatment.
He said: "The striking finding was not just that patients could stop insulin but in every case the overall blood sugar was lower without patients having problems with too low blood sugar."
Prof Andrew Hattersley, of the Peninsula Medical School, said: "This research shows that genetics really do make a difference - knowing the cause of this diabetes helped us know what type of tablet might work.
"This finding is in contrast to that for most patients with Type 1 diabetes, who need lifelong insulin therapy.
"But what we want now is to test more people who were diagnosed before they were six months old to see if their treatment can be successfully altered."
The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust and has been is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.