Researchers have discovered a fourth antibody, ZnT8, that helps predict who will get type 1 diabetes later in life. By using the three previously known antibodies, scientists already could predict disease with ninety percent accuracy. By adding this fourth antibody, the prediction rate rises to 98 percent.
The first new antibody to be discovered in ten years, ZnT8 is expressed in insulin-secreting cells and is associated with the mechanism of insulin release. Seventy percent of type 1s test positive for the antibody, as opposed to less than one percent of controls.
The researchers hope that by identifying a few more such antibodies, they will be able to raise the predictive accuracy of the combined antibody tests to 99.7 percent. At that point, they will be able to screen very young children and catch diabetes in its earliest stages.
They might even eventually be able to use ZnT8 as a therapy: Tests of diabetes-prone mice have shown that administering antigen (a molecule that stimulates antibody generation) as a vaccine can prevent mouse diabetes.
* * *
Source: University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, October 2007