New non-invasive diabetes test to be available in pharmacies
Published Friday, August 17, 2012 10:10PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 17, 2012 11:42PM EDT
A new generation of tools that can screen for Type 2 diabetes without the need to draw blood will soon be available in pharmacies across Canada.
The non-invasive machines work by measuring something called "advanced glycation end-products" (AGEs) in the skin. AGEs are biomarkers that accumulate in the skin as we get older. But they accumulate faster if we have heart disease or can't process blood glucose properly.
AGEs make the skin glow under various wavelengths of near ultraviolet and blue light, which can be picked up and measured by a sensor, offering a warning that diabetes may be already damaging the body.
"The skin is basically a window into the entire body. We're seeing what's happening in the blood vessels and the eye and the kidney," says John Maynard of VeraLight Technologies.
VeraLight has created one of the first of these screening machines, called the Scout DS. A patient simply needs to place a forearm on a portable table-top unit, and a result is produced after about four minutes.
Scores below 50 indicate a low risk. Above that, patients may already be in the early stages of diabetes.
Doctors say the technology seems to accurately pick up about 80 per cent of early diabetes cases, though it sometimes has trouble capturing accurate readings for those with very dark skin.
As well, it doesn't work for those who have tattoos on their forearms, since the lead in tattoos interferes with the readings.
Diabetes specialist Dr. Bernie Zinman of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital says it's important to note the machines alone cannot diagnose diabetes.
"It is a screening tool. That means you then need to go and have a more precise test at your family doctor office," Zinman says.
But the hope is that the simple test could help to spot diabetes early in people who avoid doctors or who hate needles.
Canada was one of the first countries to approve the Scout DS for use in pharmacy settings. Health Canada granted VeraLight approval in April 2011 to begin marketing the device here.
At about $10,000 each, the VeraLight machines are not inexpensive. But the company hopes to have units in a number of pharmacies across the country in the coming months.
With a report from CTV's Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip