Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a new method for measuring blood sugar levels in diabetes patients that could reduce testing errors by 50 percent.
The new method, which uses a mathematical formula that factors in the average age of a person’s red blood cells (RBCs) in addition to the cells’ overall blood sugar content, could help to improve the accuracy of most commonly used test, known as A1C.
The A1C test is designed to measure the amount of sugar absorbed by RBCs in the body over a period of time. The problem with getting an accurate diagnosis is that older RBCs tend to absorb more blood sugar over time, while newer RBCs soak up less.
Blood cells can live in the body for roughly 90 to 120 days, and cell lifespan varies from one patient to the next.
By incorporating a mathematical formula that accounts for the average age of RBCs in the body, researchers can reduce the errors caused both by older, more glucose-dense blood cells in someone whose RBC lifespan is longer than average, and by the younger, less glucose-dense blood cells in someone whose RBC lifespan is shorter.
An accurate measure of blood sugar levels is crucial for diabetes patients, as persistently elevated levels can damage the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, nerves and other organs.
John Higgins, MD, of the Center for Systems Biology, is corresponding author of the study.