The Institute for Diabetes Research, Helmholtz Zentrum München, which is headed by Prof. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, has discovered that autoimmune antibodies against insulin-producing betacells in the pancreas and the age at which these antibodies emerge depend upon the metabolic profile. This emerged during the evaluation of the BABYDIAB study. This result provides a new starting point for primary prevention and immune therapy in early childhood. The results of the study were published in Diabetes in November 2011.
Autoantibody formation is a precursor of type 1 diabetes. The study also revealed that methionine levels in the blood of children who form these antibodies at an early age are fifty per cent lower than those in individuals who develop antibodies in puberty or not at all. Methionine is an essential amino acid that must be ingested through food because the body cannot make it itself. However, diet does not seem to be the only key factor here. Rather the researchers assume that various trigger mechanisms determine whether islet autoimmunity occurs and, if so, at what age. Methionine, they believe, should therefore be considered as a biomarker for type 1 diabetes. The team led by Prof. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler will now examine the biological mechanisms underlying the various trigger mechanisms for islet autoimmunity with a view to developing primary prevention strategies and immune therapies that can be used in early childhood.
Original publication: Pflüger, m. et al. (2011): Age and islet autoimmunity - associated differences in amino acid and lipid metabolites in children at risk for type 1 diabetes. Diabetes 60: 2740