Diabetes: a molecule would make it possible to detect it before the first symptoms


  • Type 1 diabetes is the result of insufficient insulin production.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the body’s poor use of insulin.
  • Left untreated, the disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, or lower-limb amputation.

More than 422 million people worldwide suffered from diabetes in 2014. That’s almost three times the number in 1980, according to the World Health Organization. This chronic disease is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia caused by either a lack of insulin or the body’s underutilization of it. In order to limit the risk of complications, it is important to identify the disease quickly. Researchers from the University of Geneva, in collaboration with other scientific teams, have discovered a way to diagnose diabetes early, even before the first symptoms appear.

Screen for prediabetes

This serious metabolic disorder is steadily increasing under the joint effect of lack of exercise and an unbalanced diet.the authors of the study state in a press release. If the disease is detected in the prediabetes stage, the development of established diabetes can be counteracted by an adapted lifestyle. However, a third of people already have cardiovascular or kidney problems when they are diagnosed. The detection of prediabetes is complex because it involves invasive tests to identify pancreatic cells damaged by the disease.

The scientific team chose a different strategy: find a molecule in the blood associated with the state of pancreatic cells to quickly detect their change before prediabetes becomes established diabetes. For several years they have been working to identify it thanks to work on mice.

The “1,5-anhydroglucitol” molecule

The first step was to analyze thousands of molecules in healthy, prediabetic, and diabetic mice., You say. Molecular biology combined with artificial intelligence allowed them to find the molecule called “1,5-anhydroglucitol”, a small sugar whose decrease in the blood indicates a lack of beta cells, characteristic of prediabetes.

In a second step, the scientific team tested these results on humans. To do this, they analyzed the levels of this molecule in diabetics and non-diabetics. “We have observed a decrease in this sugar in diabeticsCecilia Jiménez-Sánchez, co-author of the study. It was very motivating as this reduction was seen regardless of symptoms and even before the onset of diabetes.”

A future diagnostic tool?

For the authors, these encouraging results offer the possibility of a new screening and prevention tool, especially for those at risk. “So, a simple blood test followed by an inexpensive specific test would make it possible to identify them as developing diabetes and take action before the situation is irreversible., conclude the Swiss scientists. Before developing and generalizing, the scientific team will conduct new tests on the relevance of the dosage of this sugar in different patient groups.

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