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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

A New Test for Diabetes?   (September 19, 2010)

The American Heart Association has just put out a press release about a study about diabetes, New Blood Markers for Diabetes May Help to Identify Patients at Risk.

In the scientific article (Plasma MicroRNA Profiling Reveals Loss of Endothelial MiR-126 and Other MicroRNAs in Type 2 Diabetes"), researchers review results from their study of 822 adults, in which they found that blood levels of a material called Endothelial MiR-126 are lower in people with type 2 diabetes and those who subsequently develop the disease, when compared to people without diabetes. They also found several other MicroRNAs (miRNAs) that were decreased in people with diabetes.

Why were they studying patients with diabetes? As I read the report, they weren't. They were doing a  "survey initially designed to investigate the epidemiology and pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and later extended to study all major human diseases including DM." So, as I understand it, the researchers had a test, and were looking for an application for it, and stumbled on diabetes as a potential use for their test. Clearly, if you have 822 people, who may have varying health status, you could stumble upon some association of a esoteric blood test with some common disease -- entirely by chance. It might have been an association with cancer, or with heart disease, or automobile accidents, or premature grey hair; in this study it happened to be with type 2 diabetes.

The AHA press release quotes one of the authors as saying "We think that some of these microRNA changes may precede the onset of diabetes ... Future studies will need to confirm whether these new markers can help to actually target therapies and assess patients."

Yes, indeed! And also, the American Heart Association should stick with press releases about heart disease, or at least remove some of the hype from the titles of their press releases.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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