Can A Blood Test Predict Diabetes Risk?

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    A syringe lying on top of a vial of blood on a white dishScientists have identified five molecules in the blood that can foretell diabetes risk years before typical signs of the disease appear. The finding might help to identify at-risk people who could take steps to delay or halt the disease.

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    Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, develops gradually over many years. By the time it’s diagnosed, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas may already be damaged.

    Several factors are known to raise the diabetes risk, including excess weight and inactivity. But a more accurate indicator, such as molecular biomarkers in the blood, could lead to more targeted interventions.

    Thomas J. Wang, M.D., and Robert E. Gerszten, M.D., and their colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University analyzed blood samples gathered as part of the Framingham Offspring Study, a long-term community-based study sponsored by NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The new analysis was funded in part by NIDDK. The results were reported in a 2011 edition of Nature Medicine.

    Of more than 2,400 participants with no signs of diabetes in the early 1990s, about 200 developed type 2 diabetes during the 12 years of follow-up.

    The original blood samples from this latter group were analyzed and compared to samples from age-matched participants who didn’t develop diabetes but had similar risk factors.

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