Science Uncovered: Screening for diabetes

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By Emily House, Third Year Biology

Researchers at the University of Groningen have devised a way of screening for diabetes by shining a light on skin. Type 2 diabetes is caused by body cells developing a resistance to insulin, therefore inhibiting the uptake of the sugar glucose. It is characterised by high blood glucose levels. Glucose tends to stick to protein molecules in body tissues, which become glycated and are termed ‘advanced glycation end products’, or AGEs. Accumulation of AGEs is accelerated in people with diabetes. AGEs in blood vessel walls make them stiffer, increasing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease – a leading cause of death among diabetics. High levels of AGEs occur even in the earliest stages of the condition, making them a useful diagnostic tool. In the skin, AGEs reflect fluorescent light differently to non-glycated proteins, and this difference is detectable by a small hand-held device which gauges AGE levels immediately and non-invasively.

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