Diabetes: New Diagnostic Tests Can Predict Years In Advance Whether Females Will Develop Diabetes
: Canadian medical researchers have isolated metabolites in the blood that can accurately predict whether a female will develop type 2 diabetes after experiencing a transient form of illness during pregnancy.
This breakthrough could lead to a diagnostic test that would aid physicians identify females at greatest risk and help them potentially avert the disease through interventions including diet and exercise.
The study was led by Dr Michael Wheeler, a professor of physiology at University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine, in collaboration with Dr Hannes Rost, an assistant professor of molecular genetics and computer science at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Dr Feihan Dai, a research scientist of physiology and Erica Gunderson, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Northern California. Dr Mi Lai, a post-doctoral fellow in Wheeler's group performed much of the analyses.
Dr Wheeler, who is also a senior scientist at Toronto General Hospital Institute and the University Health Network told Thailand Medical News, "There is a metabolic dysregulation that occurs in the group of females that will go on to develop type 2 diabetes that is present in the early postpartum period, suggesting that there is an underlying problem that exists already and we can detect it.”
The newly identified metabolic signature can predict with over 85 percent accuracy if a female will develop type 2 diabetes (T2D), as described in a study published in the journal Plos Medicine
Statistically, about one in 10 females will develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy which puts them at higher risk of T2D, with 30 to 50 percent of these females developing the disease within 10 years after delivery. The disease hampers the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels and can lead to serious complications including vision loss, neurological problems, as well as heart and kidney disease.
Females with gestational diabetes are recommended to have an annual oral glucose tolerance test after delivery, which measures the body's ability to remove sugar from the bloodstream. But the procedure is time and labor consuming and fewer than half of the women follow through with it.
Dr Wheeler added, "If you've got a newborn at home one of the last things you are thinking about or have time for is your own health. This is one of the main reasons why we performed this study, to potentially develop a simple blood test reducing the number of hospital visits."
Dr Wheeler along with Dr Gunderson first uncovered metabolic signatures predictive of T2D in their 2016 pilot study of 1033 women with gestational diabetes that Dr Gunderson recruited for the Study of Women, Infant Feeding and Type 2 Diabetes After GDM Pregnancy (SWIFT), one of the largest and most diverse studies of its kind. All of the women delivered their babies at Kaiser Permanente Northern California hospitals between 2008 and 2011.
The recent research builds on prior research, following the same cohort of women over a longer time period during which more women developed T2D.
Simply by profiling the blood samples on a deeper level and tracking them over time, the medical researchers were able to identify new compounds associated with the disease.
Typically, baseline blood samples were collected between six and nine weeks after birth and then twice over two years. The women's health was followed through their electronic medical records for up to eight years. During this time, 173 women developed T2D and their blood samples were compared to 485 women enrolled in the study, matched for weight, age, race and ethnicity, who had not developed the disease.
Dr Rost, who holds Canada Research Chair in Mass Spectrometry-based Personalized Medicine and led the statistical data analysis said, "This study is unique as we are not simply comparing healthy people to people with advanced disease. Instead, we are comparing women who are clinically the same, they all had gestational diabetes but are back to being non-diabetic post-partum.”
Dr Rost added, "This is the holy grail of personalized medicine to find molecular differences in seemingly healthy people and predict which ones will develop a disease.”
Dr Rost said that, unsurprisingly, sugar molecules feature prominently among the identified compounds. But amino-acids and lipid molecules are also present, indicating underlying issues in protein and fat metabolism, respectively. In fact, the predictive power of the test dropped if amino-acids and lipids were excluded, suggesting that processes beyond sugar metabolism may occur very early in the development of the disease. The finding may help explain why complications occur in T2D patients even when blood sugar is tightly controlled with medications.
The medical researchers hope to turn their discovery into a simple blood test that women could take soon after delivery, perhaps during an early visit to the doctor with their baby.
The females from the SWIFT study are being invited back for a 10-year follow-up visit, where they will be tested for T2D. "The information we glean from this study will bring us even closer to our goal of developing this blood test," says Dr Gunderson.
He added, "It will also help medical researchers to identify metabolic differences among race and ethnic groups that this test will need to take into account. The test is intended to help obstetricians and primary care providers identify the women with recent gestational diabetes who are most at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and to support them with breastfeeding and other healthful lifestyle habits during the first year postpartum that may reduce their risk."
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