Autoimmunity and Type 1 Diabetes (E)

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a dysregulation of the immune system in which the insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed. DZD scientists are working to elucidate mechanisms leading to the development of type 1 diabetes. The focus is on the interaction of the environment, genes and the immune system. The aim is to identify predictive biomarkers in cohorts. These biomarkers shall enable an early diagnosis of the disease and aid in developing therapies for the prevention and cure of diabetes.

Objective: Prevention of Type 1 Diabetes

In clinical studies, the DZD scientists – in collaboration with international consortia – are investigating new therapies that can prevent or at least delay the development of type 1 diabetes in children at increased risk.  Through the detection of several islet autoantibodies, type 1diabetes can be diagnosed long before initial symptoms occur. In this early stage of the disease, the autoimmune process may possibly still be stopped: Oral administration of insulin powder shall promote the development of a protective regulatory immune response – similar to desensitization in an allergy treatment. The insulin taken with the food does not have any influence on the blood glucose level.

In the pre-POINT study, a positive immune reaction was initiated in children between 2 and 7 years by means of orally administered insulin powder. The follow-up study, Pre-POINTearly, now tests whether this effect can be confirmed with oral insulin in small children and whether type 1 diabetes can be permanently prevented. In the Fr1da Insulin Intervention Study, the development of a protective, regulatory immune response shall also be promoted by oral administration of insulin.


Infections in Early Life and Development of Type 1 Diabetes. JAMA. 2016 May 3;315(17):1899-901. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.2181

Incomplete immune response to coxsackie B viruses associates with early autoimmunity against insulin. Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 32899. doi: 10.1038/srep32899

Type 1 diabetes vaccine candidates promote human Foxp3(+)Treg induction in humanized mice. Nat Commun. 2016 Mar 15;7:10991. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10991

A Novel Approach for the Analysis of Longitudinal Profiles Reveals Delayed Progression to Type 1 Diabetes in a Subgroup of Multiple-Islet-Autoantibody-Positive Children. Diabetologia 59 (10), 2172-2180. 2016, doi: 10.1007/s00125-016-4050-0

miRNA92a targets KLF2 and the phosphatase PTEN signaling to promote human T follicular helper precursors in T1D islet autoimmunity. PNAS vol. 113 no. 43, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1606646113