Type 1 Diabetes: Early Diagnosis, Targeted Treatment or Even Prevention

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells. Most often it occurs in childhood and adolescence. DZD researchers have developed a test for the early detection of an increased risk of type 1 diabetes in infants. This test enables affected families to take part in prevention studies with their child. One of the things currently being investigated is whether hyposensitization with orally administered insulin can delay or even prevent the onset of the disease. 

Autoimmune Reactions Should Be Suppressed

Genetic predisposition plays a significant role in the development of type 1 diabetes. A genetic risk score developed by DZD partner Helmholtz Munich makes it possible to identify an increased risk of disease in children. In order to prevent the onset of the disease, researchers are working on methods to suppress or control the autoimmune reactions. The administration of insulin powder, for example, is intended to train the body to tolerate its own insulin – a promising approach that is currently being tested in the POInT study.  The SINT1A study is investigating whether the administration of the probiotic B. infantis can prevent the development of type 1 diabetes in children with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes. 

Screening for Autoantibodies Can Prevent Metabolic Disorders

Islet autoantibodies can be detected in the blood long before clinical symptoms of type 1 diabetes appear. General screening for the presence of these autoantibodies in children makes it possible for the first time to diagnose type 1 diabetes early and in presymptomatic stages at a population level. This innovative approach was successfully tested in the Fr1da study and has the potential to prevent dangerous metabolic disorders at the onset of the clinical disease.  

Various Subgroups of Type 1 Diabetes Discovered

Diabetes in children and adolescents is not a homogenous disease. In a study, DZD researchers were able to identify ten subgroups of diabetes in children and adolescents. These subgroups differ not only in terms of the characteristics of different forms of diabetes, but also in terms of their prognosis. The knowledge gained opens up new possibilities for more targeted and personalized treatment. 

Research into the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes is making significant progress in terms of early detection and early treatment. This helps to improve the quality of life of people with type 1 diabetes and to develop preventive measures.


Ziegler AG, ..., Achenbach P; Fr1da Study Group. Yield of a Public Health Screening of Children for Islet Autoantibodies in Bavaria, Germany. JAMA. 2020 Jan 28;323(4):339-351. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.21565. PMID: 31990315; PMCID: PMC6990943.

Assfalg R, ...,  Bonifacio E, Ziegler AG. Oral insulin immunotherapy in children at risk for type 1 diabetes in a randomised controlled trial. Diabetologia. 2021 May;64(5):1079-1092. doi: 10.1007/s00125-020-05376-1. Epub 2021 Jan 30. PMID: 33515070; PMCID: PMC8012335. 


Birgit Niesing

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Dr. Astrid Glaser

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