Enzyme may help spot diabetes sooner

July 12, 2010 at 1:38 AM

BALTIMORE, July 12 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they are on the trail of a faster, easier test to detect pre-diabetes -- long before symptoms occur and in time to reverse the disease.

Biochemists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, led by Gerald Hart, found high amounts of a difficult-to-detect sugar -- O-GlcNAc -- occur in reaction to diet and stress in those with diabetes.

To discover how early this elevation may begin and how useful it could be to early diagnosis, Kyoungsook Park, a graduate student in Hart's lab, measured the easier-to-detect enzyme O-GlcNAcase -- which helps break O-GlcNAc down.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes, found levels of this enzyme were two to three times higher in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes than in controls with no disease

"When I checked the enzyme levels and saw how dramatically different they were between the pre-diabetic cells and the controls, I thought I did something wrong," Park said in a statement. "I repeated the test five times until I could believe it myself."

Park had looked at enzyme levels in blood samples already characterized using traditional tests requiring patient fasting -- 36 as normal, 13 as pre-diabetes and 53 as type 2 diabetes.

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