A simple blood test may soon predict the chances of a person developing Type 2 diabetes, by detecting if he has a low level of a particular molecule called PYY.
This can further pave the way for use of preventative treatment to slow down, or even halt that development.
Researchers at Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research have shown that people who produce low levels of PYY are at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
It's known that the hormone PYY, which is released from the gut after a meal, is responsible for creating a feeling of satiety. In case of PYY oversupply, it prevents diet-induced obesity in mice.
Professor Herbert Herzog, Director of Garvan's Neuroscience Program, and an expert on appetite, said that the results are vital as they show a metabolic defect before the presence of any disease or manifestation of weight gain.
"We can now see that low PYY levels after eating are a very early predictor of the development of obesity and Type 2 diabetes," he said.
The research was led by Professor Lesley Campbell, Director of Diabetes Services at St. Vincent's Hospital and a senior member of Garvan's Diabetes and Obesity Clinical Studies group, who has been studying genetic factors in the development of Type 2 diabetes for over 10 years.
Her research is specifically aimed at people before they get the disease, the contributing factors, and the effects of the diabetes. She has already found that that insulin resistant people, with a family history of Type 2 diabetes, have low levels of PYY.
"In earlier studies we hinted at the fact that before any of the abnormalities of diabetes are present, people already have an abnormality of satiety, marked by the lack of the secretion of this PYY hormone. We now have published that, even earlier in the development of diabetes, people who are not yet insulin resistant show a low secretion of PYY. They have a blunted post-meal secretion of this hormone, making them less likely to feel satiety, and more likely to gain weight," she said.
The study required elaborate testing of two groups of people, 8 in each group, over a period of two years. While one group had relatives with Type 2 diabetes, the other group had no family history of the disease. The groups were matched for gender, for age and for adiposity.
"It was most important to match the groups for their fatness. The only difference was their relatives. You assume that they are carrying the genetic burden of diabetes, which we already know to be a reality. Low levels of PYY at this very early pre-diabetes stage could be used as a marker, or predictor, that Type 2 diabetes is very likely to develop. As a clinician, I am hopeful that it will be possible to screen extensively in the future, and therefore stem the spread of this debilitating disease," said Campbell.
The findings of the study were published online recently in the prestigious International Journal of Obesity.