New Method for Testing Blood Sugar Levels Could Improve Diabetes Monitoring

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.

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John Higgins, MD, of the Center for Systems Biology, is corresponding author of the study.


New Studies May Unlock Some Mysteries of Asthma

What makes an asthma attack different from an allergic reaction?

Thanks to some groundbreaking technology, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital may have uncovered new clues.

They recently used an innovative new imaging tool, in combination with a new technique for investigating the allergic immune response, to determine why some individuals with allergies to airborne allergens develop asthma while others do not.

In one study, researchers demonstrated that participants with mild allergic asthma have thicker smooth muscle tissue in their airway passages than participants with allergy alone.

A companion study showed that the airways of asthmatic participants had a greater activation of a specific type of immune cell when exposed to airborne allergens.

The results suggest that a combination of contraction by these thicker layers of smooth muscle, increased inflammation due to T cell activation and the secretion of sticky mucus contribute to the breathing difficulties experienced during an asthma attacks.

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Andrew Luster, MD, PhD, Benjamin Medoff, MD, Melissa Suter, PhD, and James Moon, PhD, all made key contributions to the study.


Moving Sooner After Surgery May Shorten Recovery Time

It may seem like common sense to have patients recovering from serious surgery get plenty of bed rest in order to recuperate.

But a recent Mass General research study demonstrated that patients in surgical intensive care units who were encouraged to start moving soon after their procedures were ready to go home earlier and were better able to take care of themselves upon release.

Study participants assigned to early mobilization — who received daily mobility assessments and support in working towards daily goals — reduced their average hospital stay by three days compared to a control group. More than half of those in the movement group were also completely independent on discharge, compared with only a third of those in the control group.

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Matthias Eikermann, MD is co-lead author of the study.

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