Diagnosing diabetes

Upfront is a quick look at the latest developments from Stanford Medicine

The two types of diabetes have different causes and different treatments. Until recently, distinguishing between the two required a slow, expensive test in a health-care facility.

Now, however, Stanford scientists have invented a handheld microchip that can diagnose type-1 diabetes. Early diagnoses and rapid, aggressive therapies may allow patients with type-1 diabetes to live healthier lives, researchers say.

“With the new test, not only do we anticipate being able to diagnose diabetes more efficiently and more broadly, we will also understand diabetes better — both the natural history and how new therapies impact the body,” says Brian Feldman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology.

The chip uses nanotechnology to detect the auto-antibodies that attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas of patients with type-1 diabetes. Those antibodies are not found in patients with type-2 diabetes.

The chip was unveiled in Nature Medicine. The researchers are awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval of the device. Each chip is expected to cost about $20 to produce and can be used for upward of 15 tests.

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