Type 2 diabetes Glucose in earwax could determine potential risk of developing condition

This Morning: Type 2 diabetes can be 'devastating' says expert

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose) — an important source of fuel for your body. With type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.

A person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be detected earlier in life thanks in part to a test which measures levels in one’s earwax, a study has claimed.

Researchers said that the cheap measurement is almost 60 percent more reliable in measuring glucose levels averaged over a month than the current standard test.

With the initial study complete, the researchers are now planning larger trials of their prototype device to help millions of others in helping to decipher their potential risk to the condition.

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Study author, Andres Herane-Vives of the University College London said: “It is estimated globally that one in two adults with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed.

“This situation has likely ‘worsened during COVID-19 as people may not have undergone screening.

“Many people with type 2 diabetes already have complications when they are diagnosed, so earlier diagnosis is critical.

“The current gold standard way to test chronic glucose levels requires a blood sample and is not perfectly reliable as it uses blood proteins as a proxy for the actual sugar levels.

“We have been working to develop a cheaper, more precise way to measure someone’s long-term glucose levels at any point in time.”

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The researcher’s testing device resembles a regular cotton swab with the tip of the prove being treated with a solution which tests have indicated to be the most effective at collecting earwax samples for analysis.

In their study, the researchers recruited 37 participants who did not have diabetes to put the probe through its places. 

Previous research by the team demonstrated that the device can also measure the stress hormone cortisol at a capacity which may one day be used to help monitor depression and stress-related conditions.

Cortisol has traditionally proven difficult to measure accurately, as its levels can fluctuate.

“Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of sight loss, heart attacks, strokes, kidney damage and early death globally,” said diabetes expert Rachel Batterham of the University College London, who was not involved in the present study.

“To prevent complications, we need to diagnose people as early as possible, yet this has been hampered by lack of an easy-to-use screening test.

“This new device may allow mass screening and earlier identification of type 2 diabetes.”

Some of the potential risk of untreated type 2 diabetes include:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye damage
  • Slow healing
  • Hearing impairment
  • Skin conditions
  • Sleep apnoea

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