Islet autoantibodies as precision diagnostic tools to characterize heterogeneity in type 1 diabetes: a systematic review

Commun Med (Lond). 2024 Apr 6;4(1):66. doi: 10.1038/s43856-024-00478-y.


Background: Islet autoantibodies form the foundation for type 1 diabetes (T1D) diagnosis and staging, but heterogeneity exists in T1D development and presentation. We hypothesized that autoantibodies can identify heterogeneity before, at, and after T1D diagnosis, and in response to disease-modifying therapies.

Methods: We systematically reviewed PubMed and EMBASE databases (6/14/2022) assessing 10 years of original research examining relationships between autoantibodies and heterogeneity before, at, after diagnosis, and in response to disease-modifying therapies in individuals at-risk or within 1 year of T1D diagnosis. A critical appraisal checklist tool for cohort studies was modified and used for risk of bias assessment.

Results: Here we show that 152 studies that met extraction criteria most commonly characterized heterogeneity before diagnosis (91/152). Autoantibody type/target was most frequently examined, followed by autoantibody number. Recurring themes included correlations of autoantibody number, type, and titers with progression, differing phenotypes based on order of autoantibody seroconversion, and interactions with age and genetics. Only 44% specifically described autoantibody assay standardization program participation.

Conclusions: Current evidence most strongly supports the application of autoantibody features to more precisely define T1D before diagnosis. Our findings support continued use of pre-clinical staging paradigms based on autoantibody number and suggest that additional autoantibody features, particularly in relation to age and genetic risk, could offer more precise stratification. To improve reproducibility and applicability of autoantibody-based precision medicine in T1D, we propose a methods checklist for islet autoantibody-based manuscripts which includes use of precision medicine MeSH terms and participation in autoantibody standardization workshops.

Plain language summary

Islet autoantibodies are markers found in the blood when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas become damaged and can be used to predict future development of type 1 diabetes. We evaluated published literature to determine whether characteristics of islet antibodies (type, levels, numbers) could improve prediction and help understand differences in how individuals with type 1 diabetes respond to treatments. We found existing evidence shows that islet autoantibody type and number are most useful to predict disease progression before diagnosis. In addition, the age when islet autoantibodies first appear strongly influences rate of progression. These findings provide important information for patients and care providers on how islet autoantibodies can be used to understand future type 1 diabetes development and to identify individuals who have the potential to benefit from intervention or prevention therapy.