Infrared spectroscopy of fingernails might be an easy, comfortable and affordable way to diagnose diabetes without a need for blood sampling.
The growing number of people with diabetes is creating a global public health problem. Blood glucose is widely used for monitoring of the disease, however, this analysis requires blood testing and is hampered by the instability of glucose during transport. Although the HbA1c test (= the measurement of glycated haemoglobin) is a good diagnostic tool, various factors may influence its results. Could there be another way?
Glycated keratin in nails allows to monitor average glucose exposure over the last weeks. In a recent study published in Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy was used as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for diagnosing diabetes with fingernails. Initially, nails clippings of healthy subjects were treated in the lab with glucose to study the effect of glucose on the spectrum. Subsequently, nail clippings were analyzed using a NIR (near-infrared) Spectrometer and NIR chemical imaging; 52 patients with diabetes and 107 healthy subjects were enrolled in the clinical study.
Mathematical processing allowed 100% correct diagnosis. NIR spectroscopy is an alternative, non-invasive and fast tool to assess glycation. The possibility to connect fibre optic probes to NIR equipment allows measurement on complete fingernails during a medical consultation. In contrast to blood glucose measurements, assaying nail glycation is not hampered by transport or storage problems, as even prolonged storage at 37°C did not affect test results.
The study shows for the first time the application of NIR spectroscopy for assessing glycation of nail proteins. According to the authors of the study, the determination of glycated nail proteins by NIR spectroscopy has the potential to serve as a diagnostic marker of diabetes when blood analysis is impossible. The method has the advantage of a very quick analysis time. Also, since there is no reagent cost, the method is very economical. The non-invasive character of the technique results in a low psychological threshold without a need of medically trained personnel. The test could thus be particularly useful in developing countries, the authors add.
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Tinne Monteyne, Renaat Coopman, Antoine S. Kishabongo, Jonas Himpe, Bruno Lapauw, Samyah Shadid, Elisabeth H. Van Aken, Darja Berenson, Marijn M. Speeckaert, Thomas De Beer, Joris R. Delanghe: Analysis of protein glycation in human fingernail clippings with near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy as an alternative technique for the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus, 11.05.2018.