An international team of scientists developed a new blood-testing method to detect earlier and more accurately if diabetic patients had developed life-threatening complications like heart disease and kidney failure.
The study published on Tuesday in the journal Clinical Chemistry described the revolutionary new technology that used just a few drops of blood for testing.
“This discovery is going to revolutionize how quickly and non-invasively we can identify potentially fatal complications in the hundreds of millions of diabetic patients worldwide,” said the paper’s co-corresponding author Zhang Wei, associate professor of cancer epidemiology and prevention at Northwestern University.
It is the latest discovery in the new blood-testing technology that Northwestern scientists used most recently to detect liver cancer in patients and is now being tested in other major cancers.
About two-thirds of the 424 million diabetic patients worldwide die from vascular complications, and detecting these complications early could enable treatments to control the development of severe disease or death, according to the researchers.
However, current methods of diagnosis, including analyzing a patient’s body mass index the length of time they have had diabetes or a blood test analyzing how much waste product is present, are prone to error and don’t identify complications early enough.
The new method needs just 3 to 5 milliliters of blood to test a patient’s DNA by using highly sensitive blood biomarkers. If the diabetic patient has developed a vascular complication, the damaged blood vessels would release new DNA into the bloodstream.
The study examined 62 diabetic patients (12 patients without vascular complications, 34 patients with a singular vascular complication and 16 with multiple vascular complications).
The findings showed that the blood test was able to identify if a patient had vascular complications much more accurately than current diagnostic methods.