BACKGROUND: A company called VeraLight has developed an innovative screening tool for Type II diabetes. Called the Scout, it employs fluorescence spectroscopy to non-invasively measure biomarkers in the top layer of skin of a subject's forearm. Unusually high concentrations of this important biomarker, advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), are indicative of diabetes. A preliminary study demonstrated that the technology was able to identify 20% more Type II diabetes patients than conventional methods.
BENEFITS: Current screening methods for diabetes are grossly inadequate. As many as 50% of diabetics are not diagnosed until the disease is well advanced, with one or more often irreversible complications. A more accurate and convenient screening method could dramatically reduce the costs and health risks associated with those complications, allowing patients to halt or even reverse the progression of the disease if it is caught early enough. Until the advent of Scout, a skin biopsy was the only way to detect AGEs, which made the method impractical for clinical use. Scout measurements can be made any time of the day because fasting is not required. It takes less than 60 seconds to produce a result. Clinical trials are currently underway.
HOW IT WORKS: Scout weighs a mere 10 pounds. The subject inserts the palm-side of the forearm into the system, which looks like a drugstore blood pressure monitor. The Scout shines various wavelengths of light onto the skin to stimulate fluorescence, and after one minute, the resulting glow is statistically analyzed to indicate the risk of diabetes based on the presence of AGEs. To ensure accurate results, the instrument adjusts automatically to take skin pigmentation into account.
WHAT ARE AGES? Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are recognized biomarkers for diabetes, and as a predictor of complications that may lead to blindness and kidney disease. Because they can be detected in the skin, they serve as a type of 'odometer' for monitoring the cumulative damage to the body resulting from the affects of high blood sugar. AGEs specifically affect the proteins that make up blood vessels, connective tissue and skin, and are thought to be major factors in aging and age-related chronic diseases. Non-invasive skin detection of AGEs could replace the conventional fasting plasma glucose test as the medical workhorse for screening those suspected of having diabetes.