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Researchers have developed an inexpensive, portable, microchip-based test to diagnose type-1 diabetes. Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine developed the test which employs nanotechnology to detect type-1 diabetes outside hospital settings. The handheld microchips distinguish between the two main forms of diabetes mellitus, which are both characterised by high blood-sugar levels but have different causes and treatments.
Until now, making the distinction has required a slow, expensive test available only in sophisticated health-care settings. 'With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better - both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body,' said Brian Feldman, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology and the Bechtel Endowed Faculty Scholar in Pediatric Translational Medicine. Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which patients' bodies stop making insulin, a hormone that plays a key role in processing sugar. The disease begins when a person's own antibodies attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The auto-antibodies are present in people with type-1 but not those with type-2, which is how tests distinguish between them.
The old, slow test detected the auto-antibodies using radioactive materials, took several days, could only be performed by highly-trained lab staff and cost several hundred dollars per patient. In contrast, the microchip uses no radioactivity, produces results in minutes, and requires minimal training to use. Each chip, expected to cost about USD 20 to produce, can be used for upward of 15 tests. The microchip also uses a much smaller volume of blood than the older test; instead of requiring a lab-based blood draw, it can be done with blood from a finger prick. The microchip relies on a fluorescence-based method for detecting the antibodies. The team's innovation is that the glass plates forming the base of each microchip are coated with an array of nanoparticle-sized islands of gold, which intensify the fluorescent signal, enabling reliable antibody detection. (Read: 10 diet dos and don'ts for diabetics)
In addition to new diabetics, people who are at risk of developing type-1 diabetes, such patients' close relatives, also may benefit from the test because it will allow doctors to quickly and cheaply track their auto-antibody levels before they show symptoms. The researchers have filed for a patent on the microchip, and are seeking the US Food and Drug Administration approval of the device. The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.
What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, also referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, is an autoimmune disease. It most commonly starts in people below the age of 20. But it may occur at any age. It is relatively rare, accounting for around 1-2% of all people with diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes develops if the body produces little or no insulin. This occurs when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body's own immune system. Genetics may play a role in this process and it can be triggered by certain infections or by abnormal secretion of some hormones in blood. It can also be caused due to destruction of the pancreas by alcohol, disease, etc. or due to removal of pancreas by surgery.
A positive family history increases the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Adequate levels of vitamin D during young adulthood may halve the risk of adult-onset type 1 diabetes, according to a new research. Excessive urine production, appetite and weight loss, increased thirst, getting tired easily are some of the symptoms. It is diagnosed with blood and urine tests. Diabetes is a chronic condition that can be treated but can't be cured. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin, exercise and diet. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stick to daily routines of regular exercise, good nutrition, glucose monitoring, and regular visits to the doctor.
Researchers are developing techniques to replenish the cells destroyed by type 1 diabetes, thus taking a step towards freeing patients from the life-long injections.
Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of type 1 diabetes.
With inputs from PTI
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