Immunological responses to exogenous insulin

Endocr Rev. 2007 Oct;28(6):625-52. doi: 10.1210/er.2007-0002. Epub 2007 Sep 4.


Regardless of purity and origin, therapeutic insulins continue to be immunogenic in humans. However, severe immunological complications occur rarely, and less severe events affect a small minority of patients. Insulin autoantibodies (IAAs) may be detectable in insulin-naive individuals who have a high likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes or in patients who have had viral disorders, have been treated with various drugs, or have autoimmune disorders or paraneoplastic syndromes. This suggests that under certain circumstances, immune tolerance to insulin can be overcome. Factors that can lead to more or less susceptibility to humoral responses to exogenous insulin include the recipient's immune response genes, age, the presence of sufficient circulating autologous insulin, and the site of insulin delivery. Little proof exists, however, that the development of insulin antibodies (IAs) to exogenous insulin therapy affects integrated glucose control, insulin dose requirements, and incidence of hypoglycemia, or contributes to beta-cell failure or to long-term complications of diabetes. Studies in which pregnant women with diabetes were monitored for glycemic control argue against a connection between IAs and fetal risk. Although studies have shown increased levels of immune complexes in patients with diabetic microangiopathic complications, these immune complexes often do not contain insulin or IAs, and insulin administration does not contribute to their formation. The majority of studies have shown no relationship between IAs and diabetic angiopathic complications, including nephropathy, retinopathy, and neuropathy. With the advent of novel insulin formulations and delivery systems, such as insulin pumps and inhaled insulin, examination of these issues is increasingly relevant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Antibodies / adverse effects
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Antibodies / immunology
  • Antibody Formation
  • Humans
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Insulin / immunology*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin Infusion Systems
  • Models, Animal
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use


  • Antibodies
  • Insulin
  • Recombinant Proteins