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.