Massachusetts General Hospital Researchers Identify Biomarker to Predict Diabetes Risk

    Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care and Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute have found a chemical biomarker in blood that can predict diabetes risk more than a decade before the onset of the disease. Their findings were reported in the October edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

    “In the United States, almost 10 percent of the population has diabetes,” says Robert Gerszten, MD, director of clinical and translational research at the MGH Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care. “Diabetes is a major contributor to heart disease and we are working to develop this new technique to determine who is most at-risk and ultimately how we can help them live healthier lives.”

    The study looked at participants in the Framingham Heart Study, which has, for the past 65 years, identified common factors and characteristics in the blood that contribute to cardiovascular disease. “We analyzed hundreds of chemicals in the blood to see if we could detect changes in the chemical makeup before a person developed diabetes,” Gerszten says.

    Using a chemical profiling platform that uses mass spectrometry, the authors found that the novel compound 2-aminoadipic acid biomarker registered higher levels in people who went on to develop diabetes. The Gerszten group validated these findings in a separate cohort of individuals from Europe. Importantly, they went on to perform experiments in cells and animal models that suggest that they have discovered a new pathway in blood glucose metabolism.

    “We are very hopeful that within four to five years this very simple blood test will be a tool that physicians will use to help treat their patients,” Gerszten says. “This will allow us to not just predict who will have the disease, but also who will respond to therapy with the ultimate hope of personalizing medical care.”

    illustration by Carl wiens
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