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Gold test for diabetes

By David, 18 July 2014 News

Structure of insulin

A computer-generated image of insulin, the chemical that allows sugar to enter your cells.
Image: CSIRO Science Image

Written by Sarah Kellett

Researchers have made a cheap and rapid new test to diagnose type 1 diabetes using a gold-studded glass chip.

Each day, around 280 Australians are diagnosed with diabetes. There are many different types of diabetes, and they are all connected by insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach. It controls how much sugar gets from your blood into the muscles and other cells of the body. Both insulin and sugar are needed to give your cells energy, so diabetes can be very dangerous.

Getting to know diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means the body is attacking itself. The immune system creates antibodies that target cells in the pancreas, causing damage that stops it making insulin. On the other hand, in type 2 diabetes the body does not attack itself with antibodies, but either the pancreas is damaged by another way, or the muscles and other cells have stopped responding to insulin.

When someone has diabetes, it is not always easy for doctors to know whether it is type 1 or type 2. The test is to look at their blood for the pancreas-targeting antibodies found in type 1 diabetes. This test is quite slow and expensive. Faster and cheaper tests just weren’t sensitive enough to detect antibodies. To overcome this problem, a team from Stanford University in the USA used nanotechnology.

Going for gold

By placing tiny islands of gold on a glass surface, the team made an amplifier. The fast, cheap tests were now 100 times more sensitive, good enough to detect the antibodies found in type 1 diabetes. Placing just a drop of blood on the gold-studded glass chip would allow a doctor to quickly see if antibodies are there. After trying it out, they found the new nanotech-amplified test was as sensitive as the slower test currently used.

This week is National Diabetes Week in Australia. Though we don’t know any way to prevent type 1 diabetes, you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by eating plenty of fruit and veg and exercising regularly.

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Do you have a favourite recipe that’s healthy and helps you either manage diabetes or reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes? I love fresh rice paper rolls!

More information

Here’s some food for thought about diet and health

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