'Snapshots' of Eyes Early Warning of Diabetes

Researchers test a patient's eyes
for metabolic stress related to
diabetes using the FA instrument;
© University of Michigan

The instrument, invented by two scientists at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, captures images of the eye to detect metabolic stress and tissue damage that occur before the first symptoms of disease are evident. For people with diabetes the new device could offer potentially significant advantages over blood glucose testing, the "gold standard" for diabetes detection. The device takes a specialized photograph of the eye and is non-invasive, taking about five minutes to test both eyes.

Metabolic stress, and therefore disease, can be detected by measuring the intensity of cellular fluorescence in retinal tissue. In a previous study, Victor M. Elner, M.D., Ph.D., and Howard R. Petty, Ph.D. reported that high levels of flavoprotein autofluorescence (FA) act as a reliable indicator of eye disease. In their new study, they measured the FA levels of 21 individuals who had diabetes and compared the results to age-matched healthy controls.

The scientists found that FA activity was significantly higher for those with diabetes, regardless of severity, compared to those who did not have the disease. The results were not affected by disease severity or duration and were elevated for diabetics in each age group: 30 to 39 years, 40 to 49 years, and 50 to 59 years. Given the increasing prevalence of diabetes, the FA device holds the potential to help address a leading and growing public health concern.

"Increased FA activity is the earliest indicator that cell death has occurred and tissue is beginning to break down," says Petty, professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the U-M Medical School. The researchers also note that elevated FA does not always mean that an individual has diabetes.

"Because of the prevalence of diabetes in our population, individuals with abnormally high FA would be prompted to undergo glucose tolerance testing," says Elner. "If the findings were negative for diabetes, we would look for other causes of ocular tissue dysfunction."

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan Health System