Molecular Evidence of Imminent Disease Development for Type 1 Diabetes

Diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is preceded by the appearance of pancreatic islet cell autoantibodies circulating in the blood. Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München and the University of Dresden, both partners in the DZD, in cooperation with colleagues from the University of Cambridge, have now found a transient, significant increase in the expression of antiviral interferon (IFN) immune response genes shortly before the first appearance of autoantibodies in the blood of children. The IFN immune response is often associated with a recent respiratory infection – a new indication that diseases of the upper respiratory tract may also contribute to the development of type 1 diabetes.


Epidemiological and genetic data have already indicated that viral infections and antiviral interferon (IFN) immune response genes are associated with the development of type 1 diabetes. “We found that in genetically predisposed children there was a transient upregulation of IFN immune response genes prior to the development of autoantibodies,” said Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, director of the Institute of Diabetes Research at Helmholtz Zentrum München. “This was associated with a recent history of an upper respiratory tract infection.” “The association is an indication of possible disease mechanisms that may lead to the development of type 1 diabetes,” said Ziegler.

In the future, these findings could aid in developing a strategy for the prevention of type 1 diabetes. "One approach could be a vaccination against specific pathogens, another could be measures to suppress a specific immune response," said Ziegler.


Original publication:
Ferreira, R. et al. (2014). A type I interferon transcriptional signature precedes autoimmunity in children genetically at-risk of type 1 diabetes, Diabetes, doi: 10.2337/db13-1777
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