What are Islet Cell Antibodies?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Islet cells in the pancreas help to create certain hormones within the body, including pancreatic polypeptide, glucagon, somatomammotropin, and insulin. Islet cell antibodies work against these cells by treating them as foreign material and attempting to expunge them from the system. The destruction of these cells can cause a number of health complications, including type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroiditis.

In the pancreas, numerous clusters of cells are formed to help produce certain hormones necessary to maintaining a healthy system. These hormones range from glucagon, which raises the level of glucose in the blood, to insulin, which will lower the levels of glucose. Antibodies, on the other hand, are a protein that the body begins to create during any sign of real or perceived damage. When the immune system mistakenly begins to destroy islet cells, these specific antibodies are released.

Although islet cell antibodies are sometimes related to other autoimmune diseases, they are most commonly associated with type 1 diabetes. Whereas type 2 diabetes is attributed to a genetic tendency toward insulin resistance, type 1 diabetes is often thought to be caused by the disintegration of pancreatic islet cells. In many cases, antibodies may appear in patients prior to any symptoms of diabetes and, when these antibodies are made apparent by testing, they are often indicative of the onset of the disease.


There are a number of tests that may be done to note the presence of islet cell antibodies, but blood tests — better known as islet cell antibody measurements — are by far the most common. These blood tests generally analyze a number of antibodies such as anti-insulin, islet cell autoantigen 512, and anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase. Blood may also be taken at this time to help rule out complementary autoimmune conditions such as Addison's or celiac disease.

Though, as of 2010, there is no known cure for islet cell antibodies, there are many folk remedies that are thought to either prevent or help curb their effects. For example, vitamin D taken early in life is said to help stunt the formation of these antibodies, while the juice of bitter melon is thought to help lower blood sugar. Most doctors, however, recommend a clinical approach, which may include a variety of insulin types that may be injected, pumped or inhaled into the body. There are also a number of surgical procedures that show promise for patients who are affected by islet cell antibodies.


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