Background: Contrary to the presumption that type 1 diabetes leads to an absolute insulin deficiency, many individuals with type 1 diabetes have circulating C-peptide years after the diagnosis. We studied factors affecting random serum C-peptide concentration in individuals with type 1 diabetes and the association with diabetic complications.
Methods: Our longitudinal analysis included individuals newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes from Helsinki University Hospital (Helsinki, Finland) with repeated random serum C-peptide and concomitant glucose measurements from within 3 months of diagnosis and at least once later. The long-term cross-sectional analysis included data from participants from 57 centres in Finland who had type 1 diabetes diagnosed after 5 years of age, initiation of insulin treatment within 1 year from diagnosis, and a C-peptide concentration of less than 1·0 nmol/L (FinnDiane study) and patients with type 1 diabetes from the DIREVA study. We tested the association of random serum C-peptide concentrations and polygenic risk scores with one-way ANOVA, and association of random serum C-peptide concentrations, polygenic risk scores, and clinical factors with logistic regression.
Findings: The longitudinal analysis included 847 participants younger than 16 years and 110 aged 16 years or older. In the longitudinal analysis, age at diagnosis strongly correlated with the decline in C-peptide secretion. The cross-sectional analysis included 3984 participants from FinnDiane and 645 from DIREVA. In the cross-sectional analysis, at a median duration of 21·6 years (IQR 12·5-31·2), 776 (19·4%) of 3984 FinnDiane participants had residual random serum C-peptide secretion (>0·02 nmol/L), which was associated with lower type 1 diabetes polygenic risk compared with participants without random serum C-peptide (p<0·0001). Random serum C-peptide was inversely associated with hypertension, HbA1c, and cholesterol, but also independently with microvascular complications (adjusted OR 0·61 [95% CI 0·38-0·96], p=0·033, for nephropathy; 0·55 [0·34-0·89], p=0·014, for retinopathy).
Interpretation: Although children with multiple autoantibodies and HLA risk genotypes progressed to absolute insulin deficiency rapidly, many adolescents and adults had residual random serum C-peptide decades after the diagnosis. Polygenic risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes affected residual random serum C-peptide. Even low residual random serum C-peptide concentrations seemed to be associated with a beneficial complications profile.
Funding: Folkhälsan Research Foundation; Academy of Finland; University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital; Medical Society of Finland; the Sigrid Juselius Foundation; the "Liv and Hälsa" Society; Novo Nordisk Foundation; and State Research Funding via the Helsinki University Hospital, the Vasa Hospital District, Turku University Hospital, Vasa Central Hospital, Jakobstadsnejdens Heart Foundation, and the Medical Foundation of Vaasa.
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