New device to diagnose diabetes

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 5, 2008 5:51:16 PM PDT
A device is helping doctors diagnose diabetes faster, and less painfully, than ever before. Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

Twenty million Americans suffer from diabetes, but they often don't know it for years until they get severe complications, like blindness or kidney disease. Now, a quick, painless test could get more patients to get tested sooner.

Shirley Loo has two siblings with diabetes, so she thinks before she eats.

"You can lose a limb," she said. "You can die of diabetes. You can go blind with it."

So she avoids sweets, reads labels and is taking part in a study looking at a new painless, bloodless diabetes test.

"I want to keep enjoying life and just have a great life," she said. "And you need well-being for that."

The machine could replace the traditional diabetes testing method of fasting, drinking a sweet glucose solution and taking a blood test.

"It did take a couple of hours while I was here for the whole test," Loo said.

But the new Vera-Light Scout System has patients in and out in a flash. It uses fluorescent light to non-invasively measure the effects of high glucose levels in the forearm's connective tissue.

"We've been able to identify those biochemical changes that may reflect diabetes without the need of sticking the patient or drawing blood or sending samples off to a certified laboratory," said Dr. Robert Ratner, of the MedStar Research Institute in Washington, D.C.

The machine shines a light onto the skin's surface and the layers of tissue immediately below. It measures how much light bounces back in very specific wavelengths.

"We then compare the scout measure and the overnight fasting with glucose and found that the scout measure is as accurate, if not better," Dr. Ratner said.

Some doctors believe the test will be the future of diabetes detection. Shirley hopes the pain-free device will get others to get tested sooner.

"I wanted it to help, to make a difference," she said.

And it is making a difference, one flash at a time.

The scout is only for initial diabetes detection, not daily blood glucose testing. Traditional diabetes detection can take about two hours, but the scout system only takes about three minutes to produce a result. Scout measurements can be made any time of the day because fasting is not required.

For more information, please contact the MedStar Research Institute at (202) 787-5373.