November 1, 2007 Endocrinologists, engineers, and microbiologists worked together to create a new testing method for diabetes. It projects light into the skin in order to measure the presence of advanced glycation endproducts. These compounds indicate the damage ravaged on the body by abnormally high blood sugar. Testing takes about one minute, during which the device shines differing wavelengths of light into the arm. This stimulates fluorescence, which the machine interprets to provide an indication of diabetes risk.
In medicine, it's not often you learn you have a disease even before symptoms occur. But an innovative new test for diabetes is promising to do just that.
Like millions of people in the United States, Wayne Smith has diabetes.
"Having diabetes is a very frustrating disease, of course, my glucose levels in my blood go up and down continuously," Smith told Ivanhoe.
Even more frightening, he was living with it for years before he even knew it.
"The tragic consequence of that is that you have many people in the United States who are undiagnosed and the diagnosis of the disease typically doesn't occur until seven to nine years post onset," David Van Avermaete, CEO of Vera light, told Ivanhoe.
The standard test for diagnosing diabetes involves fasting, drinking a syrupy drink, drawing blood and then waiting for results.
"There's a significant cost associated with the blood testing. Pain associated with drawing blood and access," Mark Rohrscheib, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico, told Ivanhoe. Hoping to diagnose the disease earlier, before complications occur, internists are testing a new optical screening device called "The Scout."
The Scout shines different wavelengths of light under the arm to "light up" a protein in the skin called advanced glycation endproducts or AGEs, which indicates diabetes risk.
"The reality is that if you can find people in an early enough state, in a pre-diabetic state, headed for diabetes, the latest data shows you can actually prevent the disease in many cases," Even though Smith is managing his illness, he wishes he had been diagnosed early enough to stop it and that's what doctors hope the scout will do for others.
The scout is expected to cost about the same as current testing methods. It is being tested in several hospitals across the country and could be on the market by next year.
The Optical Society of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
BACKGROUND: A company called VeraLight has developed an innovative screening tool for Type II diabetes. Called the Scout, it employs fluorescence spectroscopy to non-invasively measure biomarkers in the top layer of skin of a subject's forearm. Unusually high concentrations of this important biomarker, advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), are indicative of diabetes. A preliminary study demonstrated that the technology was able to identify 20% more Type II diabetes patients than conventional methods.
BENEFITS: Current screening methods for diabetes are grossly inadequate. As many as 50% of diabetics are not diagnosed until the disease is well advanced, with one or more often irreversible complications. A more accurate and convenient screening method could dramatically reduce the costs and health risks associated with those complications, allowing patients to halt or even reverse the progression of the disease if it is caught early enough. Until the advent of Scout, a skin biopsy was the only way to detect AGEs, which made the method impractical for clinical use. Scout measurements can be made any time of the day because fasting is not required. It takes less than 60 seconds to produce a result. Clinical trials are currently underway.
HOW IT WORKS: Scout weighs a mere 10 pounds. The subject inserts the palm-side of the forearm into the system, which looks like a drugstore blood pressure monitor. The Scout shines various wavelengths of light onto the skin to stimulate fluorescence, and after one minute, the resulting glow is statistically analyzed to indicate the risk of diabetes based on the presence of AGEs. To ensure accurate results, the instrument adjusts automatically to take skin pigmentation into account.
WHAT ARE AGES? Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are recognized biomarkers for diabetes, and as a predictor of complications that may lead to blindness and kidney disease. Because they can be detected in the skin, they serve as a type of "odometer" for monitoring the cumulative damage to the body resulting from the affects of high blood sugar. AGEs specifically affect the proteins that make up blood vessels, connective tissue and skin, and are thought to be major factors in aging and age-related chronic diseases. Non-invasive skin detection of AGEs could replace the conventional fasting plasma glucose test as the medical workhorse for screening those suspected of having diabetes.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.