According to a recent study conducted in the UK, it could be possible to diagnose diabetes via an eye exam performed using a biomicroscope based on the measurement of lens autofluorescence.
It might sound like something out of a science fiction film, but this advance may well become tomorrow’s method for diagnosing diabetes. It could be possible to predict diabetes via a simple eye scan. A study conducted at the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK has demonstrated that it is possible to detect type 2 diabetes or prediabetes by measuring the level of autofluorescence in the lens of the eye (1).
A method based on the detection of advanced glycation end-products
The technique involves a new-generation biomicroscope that uses fluorescent light in the eye to determine advanced glycation end-product (AGE) levels. These AGEs are formed as a result of condensation between the reducing function of a sugar and the free NH2 function of a free amino acid of a protein. Glycation can then cause opacification of the lens by triggering protein cross-linking reactions (2).
In this study, 20 people with type 2 diabetes, 20 people with prediabetes and 20 healthy subjects underwent medical and neurological assessments, including measurement of lens autofluorescence using the biomicroscope.
A need for further research
The study found a significant increase in AGE levels in the eyes of people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, suggesting that eye lens autofluorescence could be a reliable marker of the disease, therefore making it possible to identify people who may go on to develop diabetes, and its complications, in future. In addition, the advanced glycation end-product level was correlated with blood sugar levels in the study subjects. However, further studies with larger cohorts and conducted over a longer term are needed to confirm the reliability of this diagnostic method.
(1)Van Waateringe RP. et al. Skin autofluorescence predicts incident type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality in the general population. Diabetologia. 2019 Feb;62(2):269-280. DOI : 10.1007/s00125-018-4769-x. Epub 2018 Nov 21.
(2)Wautier MP, Tessier F.J et Wautier JL. Les produits de glycation avancée : un risque pour la santé humaine. Annales Pharmaceutiques Françaises, novembre 2014. Volume 72, n° 6. Pages 400-408. DOI : 10.1016/j.pharma.2014.05.002.