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According to the research, which appeared in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care, the levels of an enzyme known as neuron-specific enolase are elevated in people with diabetes, even more so in those suffering from diabetic neuropathy.
The results are exciting for researchers, because it suggests that detection of the enzyme blood marker could be used to diagnosis cases of neuropathy, allowing for earlier and more effective treatment.
"We have observed for the first time that serum NSE levels are elevated in diabetes and are related to diabetic neuropathy," the authors concluded. "This may provide a potential blood marker for diabetic neuropathy. If future studies confirm our results, an increase in serum NSE as an indicator of diabetic neuropathy would aid timely prediction, diagnosis, and treatment of the diabetic population."
The study included patients diagnosed with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as those without either form of the disease. According to the researchers, those with diabetes had elevated levels of NSE, while those with diabetic neuropathy were even higher, though researchers said more study is needed to "clarify the relationship."
NSE is released in response to neuron injury, and has also been used as a marker to predict and detect lung cancer, the childhood cancer neuroblastoma and traumatic brain injury, as well as to monitor the success of a course of treatment for those illnesses.
Previous studies, including a 2012 study from the University of Michigan, have linked high triglyceride levels in the blood as a risk factor for developing diabetic neuropathy as well as for the progression of the disease.
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