womens health

Identifying Biomarkers for Early Detection of Diabetic Complications

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or use it properly, leading to high levels of sugar in the blood. Over time, this can damage various organs and lead to serious complications such as heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness.

Early detection and treatment are crucial in preventing these complications from developing. However, traditional methods of monitoring blood sugar levels may not be sufficient in identifying those at risk. This is where biomarkers come into play.

Biomarkers are measurable indicators that can provide insight into a person’s health status or disease progression. In recent years, researchers have been exploring various biomarkers that could help identify diabetic complications early on.

One promising area of research involves microRNAs (miRNAs). These small molecules play a role in regulating gene expression and have been found to be dysregulated in diabetes-related conditions such as retinopathy (damage to the retina) and nephropathy (kidney damage).

A study published in Diabetes Care looked at miRNA profiles in individuals with type 1 diabetes who had varying degrees of retinopathy. The researchers found that certain miRNAs were associated with more severe cases of retinopathy, indicating their potential as biomarkers for early detection.

Another study published in PLOS ONE examined miRNA expression patterns in patients with diabetic nephropathy compared to healthy controls. They identified several miRNAs that were significantly upregulated or downregulated in those with nephropathy, suggesting their potential usefulness as diagnostic markers.

Apart from miRNAs, other biomarker candidates include advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which form when sugars react with proteins or fats; inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6); and adipokines like leptin and adiponectin which regulate metabolism.

A review article published in Current Diabetes Reports highlighted the potential of AGEs as biomarkers for diabetic complications, particularly cardiovascular disease. The authors noted that AGE levels were elevated in those with diabetes and correlated with increased risk of heart disease.

Similarly, a study published in Diabetologia found that IL-6 levels were significantly higher in individuals with type 2 diabetes who had developed kidney disease compared to those without it. This suggests that IL-6 could serve as a useful biomarker for early detection of diabetic nephropathy.

While much progress has been made in identifying potential biomarkers for diabetic complications, there is still more work to be done. Many studies have focused on individual markers rather than combinations or panels of markers, which may provide greater accuracy and specificity.

Additionally, research into novel biomarkers such as extracellular vesicles (EVs) – small membrane-bound structures released by cells – is ongoing. A review article published in Frontiers in Endocrinology discussed the potential use of EVs as diagnostic tools for various diseases including diabetes. They noted that EV content can reflect changes within cells and tissues before clinical symptoms appear, making them promising candidates for early detection.

In conclusion, identifying reliable biomarkers for early detection of diabetic complications is an important area of research that could greatly improve patient outcomes. While miRNAs, AGEs, cytokines, and adipokines show promise as individual markers, future advances may come from combining multiple markers or exploring new ones such as EVs. With continued efforts towards this goal, we can hope to reduce the burden of diabetes-related complications on individuals and healthcare systems alike.


1) Zampetaki A et al., “MicroRNA expression profiling reveals Greek-specific dysregulation patterns in human diabetic retinopathy.” Diabetes Care 2015;38(10):1508-15.

2) Wang G et al., “Identification of circulating microRNAs as novel potential biomarkers for diabetic nephropathy: a meta-analysis.” PLOS ONE 2014;9(11):e113734.

3) Sell DR et al., “Advanced glycation end-products in diabetes and diabetic complications.” Current Diabetes Reports 2018;18(10):81.

4) Navarro-González JF et al., “Inflammatory cytokines and survival factors from serum/plasma of patients with chronic kidney disease: clues to understanding the cardiovascular risk?” Diabetologia 2006;49(12):2479-2487.

5) Kusuma RJ et al., “Extracellular vesicles as potential biomarkers in diabetic state: a systematic review.” Frontiers in Endocrinology 2020;11:592.

*Note: this site does not provide medical opinions or diagnosis and should not be relied upon instead of receiving medical attention from a licensed medical professional.

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1WH staff