Study: Immune Response to Insulin Could Identify, Help Treat Those at Risk for Type 1 Diabetes


The study measured immune responses from individuals genetically predisposed to developing T1D to naturally occurring insulin and hybrid insulin peptides.

Evaluating immune responses to insulin could help identify individuals most at risk for developing type 1 diabetes (T1D), according to researchers from the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The study measured immune responses from individuals genetically predisposed to developing T1D to naturally occurring insulin and hybrid insulin peptides. Since not all genetically predisposed individuals develop T1D, researchers sought to examine T cell immune responses from the peripheral blood that could occur before the onset of clinical diabetes.

“We want to know why people develop T1D, and this research has helped provide a lot more information and data as to what it looks like when genetically at-risk individuals are headed towards clinical diagnosis,” said researcher Aaron Michels, MD, in a press release. “Ideally, you want to treat a disease when it’s active, so this is a need in our field to understand when people have an immune response directed against insulin producing cells.”

The research team collected blood samples from genetically at-risk adolescents every 6 months for 2 years. Inflammatory T cell responses to hybrid insulin peptides correlated with worsening blood glucose measurements and progression to T1D development. The findings indicate an important advancement in identifying the risk of T1D early as well as the potential for intervention.

“There are now therapies used in research studies that have delayed the onset of clinical type 1 diabetes,” Michels said in a press release. “Patients with these specific immune responses, may benefit from immune intervention to delay T1D onset and possibly prevent it for years.”

Michels noted that these results can lead to research beyond T1D and into other autoimmune conditions.

“Our work focused on diabetes, but this has implications for other autoimmune diseases,” he said in the release. “Understanding how the immune system responds can be crucial in trying to prevent diseases before clinical symptoms are present.”


Immune response to insulin could identify, help treat those at risk for type 1 diabetes. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Published February 8, 2021. Accessed February 12, 2021.

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