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 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 a destruction of these cells.
Prof. Dr. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, Head of Institute for Diabetes Research, Helmholtz Zentrum München
“These results clearly demonstrate the need to develop preventive strategies and immunotherapies for young children,” Ziegler explains. The researchers hope that this could 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 publication
The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 1,900 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. It is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 17 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 31,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de
The main research area of the Institute for Diabetes Research (IDF1) is the pathogenesis and prevention of type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Researchers examine the mechanisms that are responsible for the initiation and progression of these diseases and explore the gene-environment interactions that lead to the development of diabetes. Preclinical models are used to initiate islet autoimmunity and conduct prevention research. The aim is to identify markers that enable the early diagnosis of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and the development of intervention strategies.
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of the leading universities in Europe. It has roughly 460 professors, 7,500 academic and non-academic staff (including those at the Rechts der Isar university teaching hospital) and 26,000 students. It focuses on the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences, medicine and economic sciences. After winning numerous awards, it was named a Center of Excellence in 2006 by the Council of Science and Humanities, one of the leading science policy advisory bodies in Germany, and the DFG, the central, self-governing research-funding organization in Germany. TUM’s worldwide network also encompasses a research center in Singapore. TUM is committed to the idea of an entrepreneurial university. www.tum.de
The German Center for Diabetes Research e.V. brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and combines basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. The members of the association are the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DifE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Helmholtz Zentrum München – the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institutes of the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital in Dresden and the Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Research Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers. The aim of the DZD is to find answers to unsolved questions in diabetes research by adopting a novel, integrative approach and to make a significant contribution towards improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus. www.dzd-ev.de
Contact for media representatives
Sven Winkler, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Phone: 089-3187-3946 – Fax: 089-3187-3324 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute for Diabetes Research (IDF1), Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764 Neuherberg – Phone: 089-3187-2896