Protein biomarkers to screen early type 1 diabetes mellitus

Certain proteins in the blood of children can predict incipient type 1 diabetes, even before the first symptoms appear. A team of scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, partners in the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), reported these findings in the ‘Diabetologia’ journal.

The work was based on two large studies that are intended to explain the mechanisms behind the development of type 1 diabetes (BABYDIAB and BABYDIET*). The study participants are children who have a first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes and who consequently have an increased risk of developing the disease due to the familial predisposition. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease and often young children go through asymptomatic phase characterized by presence of auto antibodies in the blood.

A team of scientists, led by Dr. Stefanie Hauck, head of the Research Unit Protein Science and the Core Facility Proteomics, and Prof. Dr. Anette-G. Ziegler, Director of the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, analyzed blood samples from 30 children with autoantibodies who had developed type 1 diabetes either very rapidly or with a very long delay. The researchers compared the data with data on children who displayed neither autoantibodies nor diabetes symptoms. In a second step with samples from another 140 children, the researchers confirmed the protein composition differences that they found in this approach.

“Altogether, we were able to identify 41 peptides from 26 proteins that distinguish children with autoantibodies from those without,” reports Dr. Christine von Toerne. Striking in their evaluations: A large number of these proteins are associated with lipid metabolism. “Two peptides – from the proteins apolipoprotein M and apolipoprotein C-IV – were particularly conspicuous and were especially differently expressed in the two groups,” von Toerne adds. In autoantibody-positive children, it was furthermore possible to reach a better estimate of the speed of the diabetes development using the peptide concentrations of three proteins (hepatocyte growth factor activator, complement factor H and ceruloplasmin) in combination with the age of the particular child.

The researchers are confident that the protein signatures they have discovered will be helpful as biomarkers for future diagnostics.

Citation: Christine von Toerne, Michael Laimighofer, Peter Achenbach, Andreas Beyerlein, Tonia de las Heras Gala, Jan Krumsiek, Fabian J. Theis, Anette G. Ziegler, Stefanie M. Hauck. “Peptide serum markers in islet autoantibody-positive children”. Diabetologia (2016).
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00125-016-4150-x
Adapted from press release by Helmholtz Zentrum München