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Diabetes. 2009 Nov;58(11):2588-95. doi: 10.2337/db09-0249. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Validity and reproducibility of measurement of islet autoreactivity by T-cell assays in subjects with early type 1 diabetes.

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  • 1Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



Type 1 diabetes results from an immunemediated destruction of beta-cells, likely to be mediated by T lymphocytes, but the sensitivity, specificity, and other measures of validity of existing assays for islet autoreactive T-cells are not well established. Such assays are vital for monitoring responses to interventions that may modulate disease progression.


We studied the ability of cellular assays to discriminate responses in patients with type 1 diabetes and normal control subjects in a randomized blinded study in the U.S. and U.K. We evaluated the reproducibility of these measurements overall and to individual analytes from repeat collections.


Responses in the cellular immunoblot, U.K.-ELISPOT, and T-cell proliferation assays could differentiate patients from control subjects with odds ratios of 21.7, 3.44, and 3.36, respectively, with sensitivity and specificity as high as 74 and 88%. The class II tetramer and U.S. ELISPOT assays performed less well. Despite the significant association of the responses with type 1 diabetes, the reproducibility of the measured responses, both overall and individual analytes, was relatively low. Positive samples from normal control subjects (i.e., false positives) were generally isolated to single assays.


The cellular immunoblot, U.K.-ELISPOT, and T-cell proliferation assays can distinguish responses from patients with type 1 diabetes and healthy control subjects. The limited reproducibility of the measurements overall and of responses to individual analytes may reflect the difficulty in detection of low frequency of antigen-specific T-cells or variability in their appearance in peripheral blood.

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