With a new approach that analyzed just a few drops of blood, researchers from Northwestern Medicine, the University of Chicago and Wuhan University in China detected earlier and more accurately if diabetic patients had developed life-threatening vascular complications such as heart disease, atherosclerosis and kidney failure.
The study examined 62 diabetic patients, 12 patients without vascular complications, 34 patients with a singular vascular complication and 16 with multiple vascular complications.
With just three to five milliliters of blood, the non-invasive, clinically convenient test analyzes patients’ DNA by using highly sensitive blood biomarkers.
If the diabetic patient has developed a vascular complication, the damaged blood vessels release new DNA into the bloodstream, which appears in the blood test and signals the problem to doctors.
This highly sensitive blood test was able to identify if a patient had vascular complications much more accurately than current diagnostic methods.
Current methods of diagnosing vascular complications in diabetic patients – analyzing a patient’s body mass index (BMI), the length of time they’ve had diabetes or a blood test analyzing how much waste product is present – are prone to error and don’t identify complications early enough to intervene with treatment.
Prior to this study, the researchers used the blood test to analyze more than 3,000 people’s blood samples, and accurately identified liver cancer in patients without mistakenly flagging those merely at risk.
The findings were published on Tuesday in Clinical Chemistry, the leading international journal of clinical laboratory science.