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What has zinc transporter 8 autoimmunity taught us about type 1 diabetes? – published online 23/08/2019

Fig from Williams paper

Claire L. Williams, Anna E. Long

 Zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8) is a major target of humoral immunity in pancreatic beta cells. Autoantibodies to ZnT8 help to define risk of type 1 diabetes accurately, particularly after childhood. In this issue, Williams and Long (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-019-04975-x) summarise the lessons learnt from research into this islet antigen and highlight important questions that remain to be answered. They explain that antibody recognition of ZnT8 is influenced by a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism, uniquely providing evidence of true autoimmunity. Why the immune system reacts to this protein in type 1 diabetes is still unclear. ZnT8 responses appear later in the autoimmune process leading to diabetes and often are lost rapidly after diagnosis. The authors discuss how the development of novel assays to measure ZnT8 autoantibodies will provide quicker and cheaper methods of detection and may uncover additional important epitopes for antibody binding. They state that this should reveal improved biomarkers of disease and will aid our understanding of the role of ZnT8 autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes. The figures from this review are available as a downloadable slideset.

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