We round up the latest research in these bite-sized breakthroughs
Luke Turner | | Quick Read
About 10 percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes – and, of those, a further 30 to 50 percent will develop type 2 diabetes (T2D) within 10 years. A newly discovered metabolic signature that can predict with over 85 percent accuracy whether a woman will develop T2D could now lead to a test to identify those most at risk (1).
A nerve protein biomarker could help us understand which people will take years to recover from concussion. Neurofilament light chain is present in the blood when nerve cells are injured or dead – and new research has found that people with a history of concussion are more likely to have high levels of the biomarker than those without (2).
Under the Influence
A new study has found 19 previously unknown independent genetic risk factors for problematic alcohol use. The genome-wide analysis of over 435,000 people of European ancestry revealed 29 shared genetic variants associated with problematic drinking, including 10 previously identified risk factors (3).
Glycans attached to prostate-specific antigen undergo subtle changes in the presence of prostate cancer. A new technique can now identify cancer-associated glycans by using synthetic carbohydrates to create a mould of the specific glycans. By limiting binding to those glycans, researchers hope the technique will lead to earlier, more accurate prostate cancer detection (4).
An experimental diagnostic test for COVID-19 can visually detect the virus in just 10 minutes. The simple assay uses plasmonic gold nanoparticles to detect a color change, which the researchers believe can reveal viral RNA as early as the first day of infection. The test is particularly attractive because it requires no advanced laboratory techniques (5).
A new app could avoid the need for a blood test when diagnosing anemia by providing an instant estimate of hemoglobin count. The software, which works by analyzing a photo of the inner eyelid, could soon be available as a mobile app and would provide a faster, cheaper way for clinics in developing countries to better treat patients (6).
Quickly and accurately assessing the level of kidney scarring that results from diabetes or acute kidney injury is difficult – but a new microscope might provide quick answers. The device, suitable for use in an operating room, uses unstained kidney biopsies to score the degree of tubulointerstitial fibrosis through fluorescence lifetime imaging. This can be combined with more traditional results to help determine long-term prognosis (7).
- M Lai et al., PLoS Med, 17 (2020). PMID: 32433647.
- V A Guedes et al., Neurology, 94, 2412 (2020). PMID: 32461282.
- H Zhou et al., Nature Neuroscience, 23, 809 (2020). PMID: 32451486.
- S Tommasone et al., Adv Funct Mater (2020).
- P Moitra et al., ACS Nano, 14, 7617 (2020). PMID: 32437124.
- S M Park et al., Optica, 7, 563 (2020).
- S Ranjit et al., Kidney Int, 2538, 30261 (2020). PMID: 32475606.