DENVER (CBS4) – Twenty years after launching a groundbreaking study, the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes continues to make significant progress towards finding the cause of Type 1 diabetes.

The DAISY Study — Diabetes Auto Immunity Study in the Young — started in July 1993 and some of the original participants are still enrolled twenty years later. The goal of the study is to see how genes and the environment interact to trigger the onset of Type 1 diabetes.

Mylynda Herrick was enrolled in the DAISY study when she was 6, after her brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Mylynda was told she also had genetic markers that were common in diabetics.

Through her childhood, teenage years and into adulthood, Mylynda continued to participate in studies conducted annually by researchers.

“I’ve been in it for the full 20 years,” said Mylynda.

When she became a mother, Mylynda’s daughter Mackenzie, along with 30,000 other newborns in Denver, was tested for the genetic markers.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Mackenzie also had the same genetic predisposition as her mother who said she never had a second thought about enrolling her daughter in the study.

“I would rather have her in the study and find out sooner,” said Mylynda.

Dr. Marian Rewers, clinical director at the Barbara Davis Center, said genetics only plays a partial role in developing Type 1 diabetes.

“We are seeing twice as many kids diagnosed with diabetes as 20 years ago. We want to know why?” said Rewers.

He says genetics alone can’t be responsible for such a large increase.

By developing immunological and genetic tests researchers have mapped out the events leading to childhood diabetes. Using the process of elimination the researchers have also debunked a number of theories: they proved that routine immunizations and baby milk formulas based on cow’s milk do not increase the risk for diabetes.

Now Rewers said much of the research is focused on the idea that diabetes could be brought on by a virus, “We’ve found a number of viruses which are highly suspicious.”

As the search for a cure continues the hundreds of participants have benefited from participating in the DAISY study.

Cody Magerfleisch, 17, of Westminster was enrolled in the study when he was nine months old. His father is a diabetic and Type 1 runs in his family.

Every year, Cody went in for testing and would come back with a clean bill of health. Last year, the news was different.

“It was always a possibility, this confirmed it,” said Cody.

Cody developed diabetes as a teenager. But because of the study his transition to life as a diabetic went a lot smoother than dad’s journey.

“He was a train wreck, it was very sudden,” said Cody.

Many children have life threatening episodes when they are first diagnosed with diabetes and end up needing treatment in intensive care. For Cody, he was quickly able to embrace new technology and manage his diabetes from the diagnosis.

As for Mylynda and Mackenzie, “It’s exciting every time we get the letter and it is negative.”

Both mother and daughter are diabetes free.

Rewers said he hopes this study won’t last another twenty years. He hopes the goal of finding a cure for diabetes comes in the next couple of years instead of decades.



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