Diabetes can be diagnosed by simply shining a light on your skin
Shining a light onto the skin could become a new test to see if people are in the earliest stages of diabetes and heart disease.
The approach may offer a way of screening people for these health conditions that’s quicker and easier than current methods that include blood tests, and assessing risk factors such as people’s weight and family history.
The method works because glucose in blood and other bodily fluids can randomly stick to many different protein molecules in skin and other tissues. “It’s like glue,” says Bruce Wolffenbuttel of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
These “glycated” proteins, known as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, make for stiffer tissues, including blood vessel walls, which contributes to high blood pressure.
Accumulation of AGE
The accumulation of AGEs in our tissues happens naturally as we age but is accelerated in people with diabetes, or those who are in the earliest stages of the condition but haven’t yet been diagnosed.
AGE levels can be measured within skin, because they reflect fluorescent light differently to non-glycated proteins. A small handheld device called an AGE reader has been developed by a Dutch firm called Diagnoptics; it shines a fluorescent light onto the skin and detects what bounces back.
Wolffenbuttel’s team made AGE testing part of a large 30-year study in the Netherlands looking at health and disease in ageing. This part of the study looked at about 70,000 participants who were free of diabetes and heart disease at the outset and had AGE testing.
Four years later, those with a high AGE value at the start had a higher risk of developing either diabetes or heart disease. This suggests the test could be used in population screening for these conditions, says Wolffenbuttel, perhaps in non-medical settings like supermarkets.
However sceptics of screening say no such tests should be introduced without large trials showing they do more good than harm. There might be risks of the screening misdiagnosing diabetes in healthy people, which could see people wrongly encouraged to take medications that can have unpleasant side effects.
This content was originally published here.