Blood signature for beta-cell autoimmunity — potential tool for disease prevention

pancreatic islet, beta cells, alpha cells
Human pancreatic islet stained with glucagon antibody (red) and insulin antibody (blue). Glucagon is produced by alpha cells while beta cells produce insulin. Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 - Afferent

Using cutting-edge genomics methods, a gene signature predicting type 1 diabetes has been discovered in immune cells. This signature is detectable before the appearance of type 1 diabetes-associated autoantibodies. The finding could help identify early on children who are likely to develop the disease.

The incidence of type 1 diabetes is record high in Finland, but the reason for this is unknown. The discovery of early predictive biomarkers should facilitate interventions aimed at preventing or delaying the disease.

The international study led by scientists from the Turku Bioscience Centre at the University of Turku, Finland, employed RNA-sequencing-based analysis to identify an early gene signature in immune cells of children who will later develop type 1 diabetes – even before the appearance of the associated blood autoantibodies.

“Our results provide a starting point for identifying those children who are likely to develop the disease later. Next, we will validate and expand the study in a larger cohort and analyze the role of the signature molecules in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. Our goal is to develop tools and means that would enable the prevention of type 1 diabetes”, says Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa from the University of Turku.

The study involved a long-term cross-disciplinary collaboration between clinicians, experts in molecular medicine and immunology, and computational scientists.

The study is published in the journal Diabetes.


Materials provided by the University of Turku. Content may be edited for clarity, style, and length.


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