Diseases do not like being pigeon-holed.

Diabetes is a perfect example. The vast majority of people with this life-threatening malady have either genetically initiated type 1, in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, or type 2, in which the insulin produced cannot adequately clear the blood of its high levels of glucose, or sugar. Type 2 is by far more prevalent, as it is often lifestyle – too much food, not enough exercise – that plays a large role in creating the hormone-related changes.

But some people have other types of diabetes that don’t follow the normal symptoms route. Type 2, yes, but not overweight, nor do they come from a family with diabetes, for example.

Without the right diagnosis, the patient’s illness may respond in a different manner than expected.

To help those in this diagnostic twilight zone, the NIDDK, the diabetes, digestive and kidney research division of the NIH, is launching a new study into these so-called atypical types of diabetes.

"[This study] is looking to understand these differences to eventually work towards more specific diagnoses and care for patients with diabetes," said the NIDDK's Christine Lee, MD, project scientist for RADIANT, in an email exchange. People with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes who don't have the typical risk factors, like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, or who have unexpected responses to the regular diabetes therapies, are people that the study is designed for. "Additional, uncommon medical problems or findings that are not seen in others with diabetes” are also on the sought-for list. RADIANT stands for Rare and Atypical Diabetes Network.

In conjunction with 20 research institutions across the country, from Seattle to New York City, and up and down – Michigan to Florida -- the NIDDK hopes that 2,000 people whose diabetes is an atypical type or have a kind that doesn’t fit the type 1 or type 2 mold, will sign on.

Participants will be asked to fill out questionnaires, take physicals, and to submit a blood sample for a genetic picture. Maybe more tests. The point of all this information is so researchers can get a broad and detailed collection of genetic, clinical and descriptive information.

“This information could help to establish new diagnostic criteria for diabetes, find new markers for screening, or identify drug targets for new therapies that could ultimately bring precision medicine to diabetes,” said the study chair, Jeffrey Krischer, MD, from the University of South Florida in Tampa in a press release.

RADIANT has its own website. For more information, go to https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-funds-first-nationwide-network-study-rare-forms-diabetes.