Scientists have identified a biomarker that can predict diabetes risk up to 10 years before onset of the disease.
Researchers at the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital in US conducted a study of 188 individuals who developed type 2 diabetes
mellitus and 188 individuals without diabetes who were followed for 12 years.
"From the baseline blood samples, we identified a novel biomarker, 2-aminoadipic acid (2-AAA), that was higher in people who went on to develop diabetes than in those who did not," said Thomas J Wang, director of the Division of Cardiology at Vanderbilt.
"That information was above and beyond knowing their blood sugar at baseline, knowing whether they were obese, or had other characteristics that put them at risk," Wang said.
Individuals who had 2-AAA concentrations in the top quartile had up to a fourfold risk of developing diabetes during the 12-year follow-up period compared with people in the lowest quartile.
"The caveat with these new biomarkers is that they require further evaluation in other populations and further work to determine how this information might be used
clinically," Wang said.
The researchers also conducted laboratory studies to understand why this biomarker is elevated so well in advance of the onset of diabetes.
They found that giving 2-AAA to mice alters the way they metabolise glucose. These molecules seem to influence the function of the pancreas, which is responsible for making insulin, the hormone that tells the body to take up blood sugar.
"2-AAA appears to be more than a passive marker. It actually seems to play a role in glucose metabolism," Wang said.
"It is still a bit early to understand the biological implications of that role, but these experimental data are intriguing in that this molecule could be contributing in some manner to the development of the disease itself," he added.
"The value of markers like these, which are metabolites, is that they can be given to people as nutritional supplements. These are amino acid derivatives that are byproducts of metabolism. Studies in humans can be done to see if there are similar patterns to what is seen experimentally," Wang said.
The study will be published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.