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Worried about Type 2 diabetes? Your finger nails have all the answers

August 01, 2019 05:59 AM


Worried about Type 2 diabetes? Your finger nails have all the answers


Finger nail clippings will soon reveal if you are Type 2 diabetic and how much damage this non-communicable disease has caused your bones.

A study by PGIMER Chandigarh and IIT-Ropar has shown how degradation of nails can reveal the severity of Type 2 diabetes, that is, whether it is severe or moderate. The study has been published recently in the international Nature group journal, the Scientific Reports.

According to a study in Lancet, an estimated 98 million people in India may have Type 2 diabetes by 2030. “We have also found that in almost 70% Type 2 diabetics, there is bone fragility problem. Thus, if we screen nails for diabetes, it will also indicate the bone health,” said Prof Sanjay Bhadada, endocrinologist in the PGIMER and one of the co-authors of the article.

The research group has filed a patent for its finding that nails work as surrogate marker for bone health in Type 2 diabetic patients. The only mechanism to find and confirm bone healthrelated problems among diabetics is bone biopsy. However, not many are willing to undergo this intervention procedure. “Diabetes gradually alters the material structural properties of tissues and prolonged hyperglycemia causes chronic damage to these tissues/bones. It was found that the finger nail plate which was also affected, can be used to monitor the tissue damage in such patients,” said Prof Bhadada. “So bone biopsy can be prevented using nails as surrogate markers.” The researchers, conducted clinical and experimental studies in IIT Ropar and PGIMER, took a sample of 60 patients whose bone and nail samples have been tested.

“Previous medical literature has found a co-relation between nail keratin and bone collagen (structural proteins). So we conducted clinical trials based on this on patients admitted in the trauma centre in the PGIMER with hip fracture and also having Type 2 diabetes,” said Dr Navin Kumar, associate professor at IIT Ropar.

Bones, nails have same life cycle

We collected the bone heads from the fractured bone and also nail samples from the same group. Since bones and nails have same life cycle of 90-120 days and same chemical components, we could interpret that nail worked as a surrogate marker,” said Dr Navin Kumar, associate professor at IIT Ropar. “The existing test for monitoring Type 2 diabetes is a blood test. There are chances of infection. But the nail test, which is taken at the time of cutting them, is beneficial for the elderly who are on blood thinners and those who are afraid of pricks,” Dr Navin Kumar, one of the co-authors said.

The patients can send nail samples but since the physical sample is required, it has to be sent to the laboratory. The team is working on a technology where only nail images can be sent using mobile app and no physical sample is required. “Moreover, if the blood is not kept at a required temperature for a specific time, it can coagulate, and the test needs to be repeated. This is not required for the nails,” said Dr Kumar.


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