Heterogeneity in diabetes-associated autoantibodies and susceptibility to Type 1 diabetes: lessons for disease prevention

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Autoantibodies against pancreatic islets are strong predictors of Type 1 diabetes. When persistent β-cell autoantibodies against at least two autoantigens are detected, the probability of diabetes is extremely high, although the time period before disease development can vary from days up to more than 20 years. Insulin autoantibodies or antibodies specific to glutamate decarboxylase 65 enzyme are in most cases, the first autoantibodies to appear. Insulin autoantibodies typically emerge very early with a peak at the age of 1.5 years, whereas the onset of glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 antibody positivity has a more even distribution, peaking later in childhood. These differences in the timing of appearance suggest that different environmental factors might be involved in the initiation of β-cell autoimmunity beginning either already in infancy or later on. This should be taken into account in studies aimed at identifying environmental factors triggering islet cell-specific autoimmunity and also in the design of prevention trials.

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