Immune Phenotyping

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused by selective destruction of the insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Autoantibodies against beta-cell proteins are currently the best established diagnostic markers to detect islet autoimmunity and to follow it over time.

We characterize the natural history of the development and progression of humoral islet autoimmunity and determine the clinical relevance of individual patterns of the autoimmune process. For different stages and types of progression we define autoantibody profiles ("signature profiles") using antibody characteristics such as titer, antigen/epitope specificity, affinity, and immunoglobulin subclasses. These profiles contribute to improved prediction of type 1 diabetes risk and could aid assessing the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Disease-relevant immunization- and progression-profiles will be identified and associated with genetic, demographic, exogenous, and metabolic factors. Using high-dimensional data sets we will develop novel pathogenesis-models in order to explain the causality and interactions of type 1 diabetes-associated factors, to identify relevant targets and mechanisms of islet autoimmunity, and to further the development of effective immunotherapies for diabetes prevention.

Because individuals at increased type 1 diabetes risk also have an increased risk for other autoimmune diseases we investigate as well autoantibodies that are associated with celiac disease, thyroid and adrenal autoimmunity.

Our laboratory routinely measures the following type 1 diabetes-associated autoantibodies:

  • Insulin autoantibodies (IAA)
  • Glutamate decarboxylase autoantibodies (GADA)
  • Insulinoma-associated antigen-2 autoantibodies (IA-2A)
  • Zinc transporter-8 autoantibodies (ZnT8A)

All antibody assays are validated in the NIH-funded international Islet Autoantibody Standardization Program (IASP). Dr. Peter Achenbach chairs the IASP steering committee.

Contact person: PD Dr. Peter Achenbach, M.D.
Tel. +49 89 3187-4595