How dogs can sniff out diabetes
A chemical found in our breath can be used as a warning sign for dangerously-low blood sugar levels in patients with type 1 diabetes - and dogs can be trained to detect it.
A golden Labrador called Magic, from Cambridge, has been trained by charity Medical Detection Dogs to detect when his owner Claire Pesterfield's blood sugar levels fall to potentially dangerous levels.
Hypoglycaemia – low blood sugar – can cause problems such as shakiness, disorientation and fatigue. If the patient does not receive a sugar boost in time, it can additionally cause seizures and lead to unconsciousness. In some people with diabetes, these episodes can occur suddenly with little warning.
Following on from reports of dogs alerting owners to blood glucose changes, researchers at the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, wanted to study whether certain naturally-occurring chemicals in exhaled breath might change when glucose levels were low.
In a preliminary study to test this hypothesis, the scientists gradually lowered blood sugar levels under controlled conditions in eight women, all with type 1 diabetes. They then used mass spectrometry – which looks for chemical signatures – to detect the presence of these chemicals.
This revealed levels of the chemical isoprene rose significantly at hypoglycaemia – in some cases almost doubling. Dogs may be sensitive to the presence of isoprene, and the researchers suggest it may be possible to develop new detectors that identify elevated levels of isoprene in patients at risk.
"Low blood sugar is an everyda Continue reading