An international team of researchers has shown that a mathematical calculation based on just two values taken from a blood sample enables the reliable and inexpensive diagnosis of diabetes at an early stage. Diabetes often remains undetected until it has already damaged organs or nerves. This is partly because diagnosis at an early stage is time-consuming and difficult. 

The researchers—headed by Associate Professor Johannes Dietrich, MD, from the Department of Medicine I of Ruhr University Bochum at St. Josef Hospital in Bochum, Germany—published their findings in the Journal of Diabetes on Jan., 2, 2024.

Diabetes Detection Delays

“Thirty percent of all people who suffer from diabetes haven’t yet been diagnosed and, consequently, don’t receive any treatment,” says Dietrich. This is partly due to the fact that it’s not easy to detect the disease at an early stage. “Diabetes sets in gradually, and our diagnostic options are not sensitive enough to detect it; moreover, they aren’t specific enough, meaning that false positive results can also occur.”

Together with his colleagues from Germany, India, Singapore, and the U.K., he has researched a new method for the early detection of diabetes. The method, called SPINA Carb, is based on mathematical modeling. All that is required is a blood sample, which is taken in the morning before patients have their breakfast. Two values measured in the sample are relevant: the insulin value and the glucose value. 

“We enter these values into an equation that describes the body’s control loop for sugar metabolism and break it down according to a certain variable,” says Johannes Dietrich. The result is a so-called static disposition index (SPINA-DI).

The Reliable SPINA Carb Method

In computer simulations, the research team proved that the new parameter confirms the theory of dynamical compensation, which predicts that Insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome is compensated for by the pancreatic beta cells increasing their activity. A subsequent study of three groups of volunteers from the U.S., Germany, and India supported this assumption. 

“In all three groups, we found that the calculated SPINA-DI correlated with relevant indicators of metabolic function, such as the response to an oral glucose tolerance test,” says Johannes Dietrich. On top of that, SPINA-DI proved more reliable than other calculated markers of glucose metabolism and allowed a more accurate diagnosis.

“The new method is not only cost-effective, but also precise and reliable,” the authors say. “It could complement and, in many cases, even replace more complex established methods.”

Further reading: Identifying New Methods of Gestational Diabetes Diagnosis