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Diabetologia. 2008 Oct;51(10):1796-802. doi: 10.1007/s00125-008-1107-8. Epub 2008 Aug 12.

Analysis of pancreas tissue in a child positive for islet cell antibodies.

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Department of Virology, Medical School, University of Tampere, Biokatu 10, Tampere, Finland.



Type 1 diabetes is caused by an immune-mediated process, reflected by the appearance of autoantibodies against pancreatic islets in the peripheral circulation. Detection of multiple autoantibodies predicts the development of diabetes, while positivity for a single autoantibody is a poor prognostic marker. The present study assesses whether positivity for a single autoantibody correlates with pathological changes in the pancreas.


We studied post mortem pancreatic tissue of a child who repeatedly tested positive for islet cell antibodies (ICA) in serial measurements. Paraffin sections were stained with antibodies specific for insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, interferon alpha, CD3, CD68, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), beta-2-microglobulin, coxsackie B and adenovirus receptor (CAR), natural killer and dendritic cells. Apoptosis was detected using Fas-specific antibody and TUNEL assay. Enterovirus was searched for using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridisation, as well as enterovirus-specific RT-PCR from serum samples.


The structure of the pancreas did not differ from normal. The number of beta cells was not reduced and no signs of insulitis were observed. Beta-2-microglobulin and CAR were strongly produced in the islets, but not in the exocrine pancreas. Enterovirus protein was detected selectively in the islets by two enterovirus-specific antibodies, but viral RNA was not found.


These observations suggest that positivity for ICA alone, even when lasting for more than 1 year, is not associated with inflammatory changes in the islets. However, it is most likely that the pancreatic islets were infected by an enterovirus in this child.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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