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Earwax test could help detect type 2 diabetes early

By Editor
14th December 2020
Type 2 diabetes, Type 2 prevention

A test that uses earwax to measure glucose levels could be used to identify type 2 diabetes early, researchers have said.

The team from the University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience say researchers believe the test, which can be done at home without clinical supervision, may also have the potential to measure COVID-19 antibodies that accumulate in earwax.

They say the method is a cheap and effective way to assess glucose levels in people who might have diabetes.

The scientists claim their device was “almost 60 per cent more reliable at measuring chronic glucose levels averaged over a month than an existing gold standard technique”.

Dr Andres Herane-Vives, who developed the device, said: “It is estimated globally that one in two adults with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed, and the situation is likely to have worsened during COVID-19 as people may not have undergone screening. Many people with type 2 diabetes already have complications when they are diagnosed, so earlier diagnosis is critical.

“The current gold standard way to test chronic glucose levels requires a blood sample, and is not perfectly reliable as it uses blood proteins as a proxy for the actual sugar levels.

“We have been working to develop a cheaper, more precise way to measure someone’s long-term glucose levels at any point in time.”

The testing device resembles a cotton swab but has a brake that stops it from going too far into the ear and causing damage.

The tip contains organic material, with a solution that has been tested to be the most effective and reliable at taking samples, the researchers said.

The pilot study involved an international team of researchers from the UK, Chile and Germany, who recruited 37 study participants who did not have diabetes.

Previous research by the team has shown the device can also measure the stress hormone cortisol – which may help to monitor depression and stress-linked conditions. Larger trials to test their device, including in people with diabetes, are now being planned.

The findings have been published in the journal Diagnostics. To read the study, click here.

Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash

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