Dubai: A unique technique that shines 'light' on the skin can help predict risk of heart problems, especially for diabetics, and it can be used on people from Arab and South Asian background.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) said the technique, already in use in Europe and the US, involves shining an ultraviolet light on a person's skin.
The skin's fluorescence or glow can then be used to determine the concentration of advanced glycation end (AGE) products in the body, researchers said.
AGEs are minuscule fragments of degrading sugar-containing proteins that accumulate in the body over a lifetime. In a similar way that the prevalence of cholesterol can predict the risk of cardiovascular problems, so can AGEs.
They are more common in diabetics because of the spikes in their blood sugar levels so the test, which is non-invasive, is of particular interest to Qatar and the wider Middle East where diabetes is a serious health issue.
The machine that delivers the test, the AGE Reader, was developed in the Netherlands for a Caucasian population. It was, however, unclear whether it would be useful for the darker skins of Arabic and South Asian people.
The research involved 200 Arabs, 99 South Asians, 37 Filipinos and 14 from other countries. Approximately half of the subjects were men and half were women.
"To our knowledge, this was the largest study performed so far that uses the AGE Reader in South Asians, Filipinos and Arabs," Dr Karsten Suhre, professor of physiology and biophysics and lead investigator of the study, said.
"The manufacturers of the machine at first believed that the ethnicity of the person being tested would be inconsequential to the results delivered," Dr Dennis Mook-Kanamori, the research associate at WCMC-Q who brought the the AGE Reader to the study, said.
"We showed, however, that a person's ethnicity did affect the results - but that the machine could be recalibrated to provide an accurate indication of potential future cardiovascular problems whatever a person's ethnicity.
"For diabetics in particular, this is an important tool. By applying the AGE Reader test, doctors can give their patients an early warning of potential heart problems and take action to reduce those problems," said Mook-Kanamori.