OmegaQuant has been awarded a small business innovation research (SBIR) grant to develop a dried blood spot test identifying fatty acid patterns that predict Metabolic Syndrome (MetSyn) and type 2 diabetes as early screening tools.

The panel that awarded the SBIR grant to OmegaQuant concurred that this project’s significance was high since it would advance a method for predicting impending (vs. already established) MetSyn and type 2 diabetes.

MetSyn and type 2 diabetes are two conditions that are increasingly common in today’s society. These conditions are often related, and understanding the link between the two can help people take steps to reduce their risk of developing them.

Further Reading: Implementing Dried Blood Spot (DBS) Testing in the Clinical Laboratory

Current testing to identify these health issues include hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) and fasting plasma glucose, which are traditional markers of hyperglycemia and insulin resistance. However, these markers have significant limitations in that they are measures of existing, not impending, disease. Other tests of insulin resistance (e.g., oral glucose tolerance tests and hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps) are inefficient, cumbersome for the patient, and expensive; thus, they are also not viable options as early screening tools.

According to Kristina Harris Jackson, PhD, RD, who is the principal investigator for this grant, emerging evidence suggests that fatty acid profiles may serve as an early signal of impending hyperglycemia up to five years before type 2 diabetes develops regardless of whether insulin sensitivity, insulin secretion, and glycemic status are known.

OmegaQuant will work on this grant project in partnership with the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), which will provide fatty acid expertise, biostatistical support, and data access by leveraging existing prospective cohort data.

FARI was established in 2020 as a non-profit foundation that brings together nutrition scientists and biostatistical experts with strong publication records and expertise in fatty acids to accelerate discovery of the relationship between fatty acids, especially omega-3s, and health. FARI is currently the only organization focused directly on discovering and publishing research evaluating the health effects of individual dietary fatty acids.

OmegaQuant specializes in providing fatty acid measurements, interpretation, and customized behavioral interventions and has a large and growing customer base of researchers, clinicians, businesses, and individuals. OmegaQuant has also measured full fatty acid profiles (28 individual fatty acids) in numerous randomized clinical trials and prospective cohort studies.

MetSyn is a cluster of conditions that occur together, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, about one in three Americans have metabolic syndrome.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a condition in which the body is unable to properly use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This leads to high blood sugar levels, which can cause a variety of health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and over 90% of them have type 2 diabetes.

Creating early screening tools like those described in OmegaQuant’s SBIR grant will have a strong impact on public health and generate enormous cost-savings for individuals as well as the healthcare system at large.

“Metabolic diseases, such as MetSyn and type 2 diabetes affect a significant portion of the population, with a substantial impact on the health, quality of life, and financial security of these individuals. Without the means to identify high-risk individuals early, conveniently, and cheaply, many will find care too little and too late, as more than 80% of individuals with pre-diabetes don’t even know they have it,” says Dr Jackson, chief operating officer, OmegaQuant.

“Thus, there is a need for accessible and inexpensive early predictive biomarkers of MetSyn and/or type 2 diabetes to facilitate the early identification of high-risk individuals, providing the time necessary to make meaningful lifestyle changes to slow or prevent disease progression,” she adds.