Virginia's Health Diagnostic Laboratory and the University of Utah are zeroing in on fasting levels of simple blood biomarkers that may enable quicker diagnosis of diabetes risks than current standards of care.
Details of their work are published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, a joint venture of the British Medical Journal and the American Diabetes Association.
More testing is needed, of course, to see if their finding, generated from a relatively small study sample, can be duplicated in a larger group of people. If it can, the resulting test could be a simple, faster, cost-effective alternative to the oral glucose tolerance test, a cumbersome diagnostic that can take at least a few hours to complete.
Specifically, the researchers determined that elevated levels of the serum marker alpha-hydroxybutyrate (a-HB) appeared to help predict abnormalities in glucose regulation exclusive of age, gender, body-mass index, fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c. This realization came from a study of 217 patients, for whom researchers measured diabetes risk with an oral glucose tolerance test and a blood panel screening of fasting biomarkers, including a-HB. The biomarker also stood out during the oral glucose tolerance test, serving as a useful way to help predict impaired early insulin response, the researchers said.
Again, more research is needed. But these early results suggest that a-HB could be a way to identify early-stage diabetes risk quickly. With that diagnostic information in hand, doctors could intervene with recommendations for changes in diet and exercise that could stop diabetes from advancing, or at least delay its arrival, the researchers noted in their announcement.
Study co-author and HDL Vice President of Clinical Affairs Maciek Sasinowski said in a statement that the finding could ultimately give medicine a biomarker with "broad application as a rapid, sensitive and inexpensive tool" for detecting the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The research is good news in particular for HDL in a period where it is facing some serious controversy. A federal investigation is looking into the company's practice, now ended, of paying doctors $20 per blood sample submitted for cardiac biomarker testing via their lab. CEO Tonya Mallory resigned from her position in September as news of the investigation became known, but Mallory released a statement, via a spokesperson, saying her departure was unconnected to the matter, according to reports.
- read the release
- here's a link to their research