Coming soon: A sweet way to detect diabetes?

Coming soon: A "sweet" way to detect diabetes before its symptoms or complications occur, and reverse its course, say scientists.

Updated: Jul 09, 2010, 12:29 PM IST

Washington: Coming soon: A "sweet" way
to detect diabetes before its symptoms or complications occur,
and reverse its course, say scientists.

A team at John Hopkins University has claimed that
the simple, routine test for detecting the subtle onset of the
condition could soon be developed, after scientists discovered
a dramatic increase of an easy-to-detect enzyme in red blood
cells of diabetics, the `Diabetes` journal reported.

Their study has showed that the enzyme O-GlcNAcase is
up to two to three times higher in people with diabetes and
prediabetes than in those with no disease.

"That`s a big difference, especially in an enzyme
that`s as tightly regulated as this one is," said team leader
Prof Gerald Hart at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Building on their previous research, which showed
how an abundant but difficult-to-detect sugar switch known as
O-GlcNAc (pronounced oh-GLICK-nack) responded to nutrients and
stress, the scientists knew this small molecule was elevated
in the red cells of patients with diabetes.

"The question was whether the elevation happened in
the earliest stages of diabetes and therefore might have value
as a diagnostic tool," Prof Hart said.

To find out, the team focused on levels of
O-GlcNAcase, an enzyme that removes O-GlcNAc in red cells. It
modifies many of the cell`s proteins to control their
functions in response to nutrients and stress.

PTI