New Test Uses Light to Detect Type 2 Diabetes

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By: Linda von Wartburg

If you want to brown meat really nicely, add sugar and then fry it up. If you want insides as inflexible as burnt barbeque, years of elevated blood sugar will do the job in much the same manner.

This body process, whereby sugar binds to protein or fat when it shouldn’t, is called glycation. After a chain of chemical reactions, you end up with advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, and they’re very appropriately named.

AGEs are what makes your skin wrinkled in old age, and they’re guilty when it comes to diabetic complications as well. They stick where they’re not wanted and they form crosslinks, stiffening tissues inside and out.

Recently a company called VeraLight developed a spectroscopic tool that diagnoses diabetes and pre-diabetes just by measuring the fluorescence reflected by AGEs in your skin. VeraLight expects to launch its product, which gives results in only sixty seconds, late this year.

The portable desktop device, called “Scout,” weighs about ten pounds and resembles a drugstore blood pressure monitor. When you place the palm side of your forearm on to the machine, it shines various wavelengths of light onto your skin. The light excites electrons in the collagen-linked AGEs, causing them to emit light of a lower energy that is then measured by the machine.

In recent studies, VeraLight’s Scout significantly outperformed two common diagnostic blood tests, the fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test and the A1c test, in identifying diabetes and pre-diabetes in people with one or more known risk factors for the disease. A prototype of the device was able to identify 29% more patients than the FPG test and 17% more patients than the A1c test.

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Source: VeraLight; Diabetes Care, May 2007

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