- Type 1 diabetes is the result of insufficient insulin production.
- Type 2 diabetes is the poor use of insulin by the body.
- Untreated, the disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure, myocardial infarction, strokes or lead to amputation of the lower limbs.
More than 422 million people suffered from diabetes worldwide in 2014. This is almost three times more than in 1980, according to data from the World Health Organization. This chronic disease is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia, caused either by a lack of insulin or by the body’s poor use of it. To limit the risk of complications, it is important to detect the disease quickly. Researchers from the University of Geneva, in collaboration with other scientific teams, have discovered a way to diagnose diabetes early, even before the first symptoms appear.
Screen for prediabetes
“This serious metabolic disorder is constantly increasing under the joint effect of a lack of physical activity and an unbalanced diet.note the authors of the study in a press release. If the disease is identified upstream, at the prediabetes stage, its evolution towards established diabetes can be counteracted by adopting an appropriate lifestyle. However, a third of people already have cardiovascular or kidney problems when the diagnosis is established. The detection of pre-diabetes is complex, as it involves invasive examinations to identify pancreatic cells damaged by the disease.
The scientific team chose a different strategy: find a molecule in the blood that would be linked to the state of pancreatic cells to quickly detect their alteration, before prediabetes becomes established diabetes. For several years, they have been working to identify it, thanks to work on mice.
The “1,5-anhydroglucitol” molecule
“The first step consisted in analyzing thousands of molecules in healthy, prediabetic and diabetic mice., they say. Molecular biology coupled with artificial intelligence allowed them to find the molecule called, “1,5-anhydroglucitol”, a small sugar, the decrease of which in the blood indicates a deficiency in beta cells, characteristic of prediabetes.
In a second step, the scientific team tested these results on human beings. To achieve this, they analyzed the levels of this molecule in diabetic and non-diabetic people. “We have been able to observe a decrease in this sugar in people with diabetesCecilia Jiménez-Sánchez, co-author of the study. It was very motivating, especially since this decrease was observable regardless of the symptoms, and even before the onset of diabetes.”
A future diagnostic tool?
For the authors, these encouraging results offer the possibility of a new screening and prevention tool, particularly for people at risk. “A simple blood test followed by an inexpensive specific test would thus make it possible to identify in them a potential diabetes in the process of development and to take measures before the situation is irreversible., conclude the Swiss scientists. Before developing and generalizing it, the scientific team will carry out new tests on the relevance of the dosage of this sugar in different groups of patients.
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