light beam on hand; new way to test for diabetes

A New Way to Test for Diabetes?

Scientists in the Netherlands may have discovered the newest (and least invasive) way to test for diabetes: by shining a light on the skin. Dutch scientists at the firm Diagnoptics have created a device that reflects fluorescent light onto the skin and measures a blood protein called an AGE. According to a team of researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, high levels of AGEs could point to high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and a new way to test for diabetes.

How it works

When glucose flows through the blood, it can stick to different protein molecules in the skin and other tissue. These protein molecules are glycated (commonly referred to as advanced glycation end products, or AGEs) meaning they create stiffer tissue wherever they gather, like on the walls of blood vessels. The gathering of these AGEs can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Although accumulation of AGEs occurs naturally as we age, having diabetes or heart disease could speed up accumulation and block blood vessels from properly moving blood throughout the body.


The study

Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands ran a 30-year study with 70,000 participants looking at health and disease in aging. The study looked at people who did not have diabetes or heart disease at the onset of the study and who had AGE testing. Those with higher AGE levels at the beginning of the study had a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

This breakthrough, along with Diagnoptics’s device, could make diabetes testing available for large populations in non-medical settings, leading to better health for the general population. However, this technology is still new and needs further testing. Skeptics fear it could lead to a false-positive reading and lead healthy people to take unnecessary diabetes medications with unpleasant side effects.

Current ways to test for diabetes

The current way to test for diabetes is through blood tests. One blood test (fasting plasma glucose) measures blood sugar levels after fasting when blood sugar should be at its lowest. If blood sugar is greater than 126 mg/dL the patient may have diabetes.

Another test is the HbA1c test, also known as the A1c test. This measures blood sugar levels from the previous three months. For people without diabetes, the normal range is between 4% and 5.6%. An A1c level between 5.7% and 6.4% suggests that you could develop diabetes. An A1c score of 6.5% or higher usually indicates diabetes.