The aim of this study was to clarify the frequency of patients with type 1 diabetes that have serum that increases pancreatic β-cell cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentration, [Ca2+]i, and if such an effect is also present in serum from first-degree relatives. We also studied a possible link between the serum effect and ethnic background as well as presence of autoantibodies. Sera obtained from three different countries were investigated as follows: 82 Swedish Caucasians with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes, 56 Americans with different duration of type 1 diabetes, 117 American first-degree relatives of type 1 diabetic patients with a mixed ethnic background and 31 Caucasian Finnish children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Changes in [Ca2+]i, upon depolarization, were measured in β-cells incubated overnight with sera from type 1 diabetic patients, first-degree relatives or healthy controls. Our data show that there is a group constituting approximately 30% of type 1 diabetic patients of different gender, age, ethnic background and duration of the disease, as well as first-degree relatives of type 1 diabetic patients, that have sera that interfere with pancreatic β-cell Ca2+-handling. This effect on β-cell [Ca2+]i could not be correlated to the presence of autoantibodies. In a defined subgroup of patients with type 1 diabetes and first-degree relatives a defect Ca2+-handling may aggravate development of β-cell destruction.

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