A blood test to detect diabetes before symptom onset?

August 17, 2022
A blood test to detect diabetes before symptom onset?

Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland are looking into developing a blood test for early detection of diabetes for patients at risk. The test would check for a molecular biomarker that could be associated with a deterioration in pancreatic beta cells – impairment of insulin secretion from these pancreatic cells are what gives rise to diabetes.

Patients whose blood sugar levels are elevated but below the official threshold for type 2 diabetes are diagnosed with a condition called prediabetes. Fortunately, nearly half patients with proper management of prediabetes will most likely not go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

Still, identifying the disease onset before it claims crucial pancreatic cells – in addition to monitoring beta cell activity – would be beneficial to both doctors and patients.

“Identifying the transition from pre-diabetes to diabetes is complex, because the status of the affected cells, which are scattered in very small quantities in the core of an organ located under the liver, the pancreas, is impossible to assess quantitatively by non-invasive investigations,” explained Professor Pierre Maechler, from the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine.

“We therefore opted for an alternative strategy: to find a molecule whose levels in the blood would be associated with the functional mass of these beta cells in order to indirectly detect their alteration at the pre-diabetes stage, before the appearance of any symptoms.”

Professor Maechler scanned thousands of different molecular biomarkers in a variety of mouse models of diabetes and homed in on one specific sugar called 1,5-anhydroglucitol. Low levels of 1,5-anhydroglucitol could be associated with deficits in pancreatic beta cells.

More interestingly, levels of 1,5-anhydroglucitol was indicative of the functional quantity of pancreatic beta cells. The researchers confirmed the link between 1,5-anhydroglucitol and beta cells by studying changes in the blood levels of non-diseased patients who underwent surgery to remove parts of the pancreas.

Professor Maechler and colleagues is plan to study 1,5-anhydroglucitol in patients at different stages of disease to inform a potential blood test for measuring diabetes risk.


Category: Education, Features

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