Pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes is multi-faceted, including, autoimmunity, genetics and environment. Autoimmunity directed against pancreatic islet cells results in slowly progressive selective beta-cell destruction ("Primary autoimmune insulitis"), culminating over years in clinically manifested insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Circulating serum autoantibodies directed against the endocrine cells of the islets of Langerhans (Islet cell autoantibodies - ICAb) are an important hallmark of this disease. Assays for islet cell autoantibodies have facilitated the investigation and understanding of several facets in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diabetes. Their applications have extended into clinical practice and have opened new avenues for early preclinical prediction and preventive prophylaxis in IDDM/type 1 DM. Recently, surprisingly, differences in insulin content between T1DM islets, as well as, 'patchy' or 'lobular' destruction of islets have been described. These unique pathobiological phenomena, suggest that beta cell destruction may not always be inexorable and inevitably complete/total, and thus raise hopes for possible therapeutic interruption of beta cell autoimmunity - destruction and cure of type 1 diabetes. "Recurrent or secondary autoimmune insulitis" refers to the rapid reappearance of islet cell autoantibodies post pancreas transplant, and selective islet beta cell destruction in the grafted pancreas [never forgetting or "anamnestic" beta cell destructive memory], in the absence of any graft pancreas rejection [monozygotic twin to twin transplantation]. The one definite environmental factor is congenital rubella, because of which a subset of children subsequently develop type 1 diabetes. The putative predisposing factors are viruses, gluten and cow's milk. The putative protective factors include gut flora, helminths, viral infections, and Vitamin D. Prevention of T1DM can include: Primary prevention strategies before the development of autoantibodies and Secondary prevention regimens after autoantibody development. Once islet cell autoantibodies have developed, the goal is to establish a therapeutic regimen to preserve at least 90% of the beta cells, and prevent the development of hyperglycaemia. The targets for T1DM reversal should include autoimmunity, beta cell regeneration and protection of beta cell mass. Anti-CD3 teplizumab and anti-CD3 otelixizumab have been shown to provide C-peptide preservation. The unanswered questions in diabetes research include elimination of autoimmune memory responses, reestablishment of immune self-tolerance, and mechanisms of disease initiation.
Keywords: Type 1 diabetes mellitus; autoimmunity; beta cell; beta cell destruction; islet cell autoantibodies; pathogenesis; prediction; prevention.