Diabetes is quickly becoming more prevalent in many parts of the world, even among the young. Part of the problem can be traced to the expanding waistlines of people in western countries, but preventative health programs to battle obesity are still just beginning to make a dent in the rising numbers. With doctors having to deal with the rise in diabetes diagnoses in the present, a new technique promises to quickly diagnose the type-1 diabetes even without access to expensive lab equipment.
Researchers at Stanford University this week published a study in the journal Nature Medicine that outlines the new technique. The field test is described in the study as both inexpensive and portable - perfect for doctors outside traditional healthcare settings. The test uses microchips to distinguish type-1 diabetes from type-2 diabetes, detecting the antibodies only present in type-1 diabetes.
According to the study's authors, the distinction between the two types of diabetes is important due to the more aggressive treatment needed for type-1 diabetes. The new test is even more important now that more children than ever are being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. In the past children were simply assumed to have type-1 diabetes, since doctors only saw type-2 diabetes appear in older, obese patients.
"With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better - both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body," said Dr. Brian Feldman, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at Stanford.
Feldman and his colleagues are hoping that the new test, which doesn't yet have a marketable name, will soon be approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In contrast to expensive lab tests, the microchips for the new test are estimated to cost around $20 each and last for up to 15 separate tests. The new test also uses just a finger-prick worth of blood compared to the vials of blood needed for older tests.
"There is great potential to capture people before they develop the disease, and prevent diabetes or prevent its complications by starting therapy early," said Feldman. "But the old test was prohibitive for that type of thinking because it was so costly and time-consuming."
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