The incidence of autoantibodies against antigens of the insulin-producing beta cells has a peak between the age of nine months and two years. In turn, children who develop autoantibodies at this early age have a very high risk of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of ten. Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich have for the first time shown a concrete link between the incidence of so-called islet autoimmunity* and age. The findings emphasize the importance of developing immune therapies that can be safely used in early infancy. (e-publication ahead of print, Diabetologia).
The development of type 1 diabetes, one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood and adolescence, is preceded by a pre-clinical period of islet autoimmunity*. Prof. Anette-G. Ziegler from the Institute of Diabetes Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München and her colleagues from the Forschergruppe Diabetes at the Technical University of Munich succeeded in narrowing down the period during which autoantibodies most frequently develop. According to their research, the incidence is highest between the ages of nine months and two years.
“The other new piece of knowledge we acquired is that autoantibodies at ages 6 months or younger are rare.” Ziegler says. Autoantibodies are produced against certain antigens of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas – resulting in the destruction of these cells.“These results clearly demonstrate the need to develop preventive strategies and immunotherapies for young children,” Ziegler explains. The researchers hope that this will help to reduce the incidence of type 1 diabetes.
* Islet autoimmunity: The presence of autoantibodies against antigens of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas
Ziegler, AG et al. (2012), Age-related islet autoantibody incidence in offspring of patients with type 1 diabetes, Diabetologia, Epub ahead of print. Link to publikation
Helmholtz Zentrum Munich