Autoantibodies against islet cell antigens are routinely used to identify subjects at increased risk of symptomatic type 1 diabetes, but their relation to the intra-islet pathogenetic process that leads to positivity for these markers is poorly understood. We screened 556 non-diabetic organ donors (3 months to 24 years) for five different autoantibodies and found positivity in 27 subjects, 25 single- and two double autoantibody-positive donors. Histopathological screening of pancreatic tissue samples showed lesion characteristic for recent-onset type 1 diabetes in the two organ donors with a high-risk profile, due to their positivity for multiple autoantibodies and HLA-inferred risk. Inflammatory infiltrates (insulitis) were found in a small fraction of islets (<5%) and consisted predominantly of CD3+CD8+ T-cells. Islets with insulitis were found in close proximity to islets devoid of insulin-positivity; such pseudo-atrophic islets were present in multiple small foci scattered throughout the pancreatic tissue or were found to be distributed with a lobular pattern. Relative beta cell area in both single and multiple autoantibody-positive donors was comparable to that in autoantibody-negative controls. In conclusion, in organ donors under age 25 years, insulitis and pseudo-atrophic islets were restricted to multiple autoantibody-positive individuals allegedly at high risk of developing symptomatic type 1 diabetes, in line with reports in older age groups. These observations may give further insight into the early pathogenetic events that may culminate in clinically overt disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalVirchows Archiv : An International Journal of Pathology
Issue number2
Early online date16 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2021


  • BELCRO registry
  • Crohn's disease
  • health literacy
  • quality of life
  • type 1 diabetes mellitus


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