Could Earwax Be Used to Measure Chronic Glucose Levels?

Priscilla Lynch 

December 17, 2020

An earwax self-sampling device could be used to accurately and easily measure chronic glucose levels, according to a study led by University College London and King’s College London researchers.

The pilot study, published in  Diagnostics,  reports that the new device was almost 60% more reliable at measuring chronic glucose levels averaged over a month than an existing gold standard technique - glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c).

Researchers in the UK, Chile, Germany and the United Arab Emirates measured earwax glucose in 37 healthy control participants who provided standard serum, HbA1c and earwax samples at two time-points, one month apart.

The specimens measured baseline fasting glucose, a follow-up postprandial glucose level and a between sample chronic glucose, calculated using the average level on the two occasions.

The baseline earwax sample was obtained using a clinical method and the follow-up using a novel self-sampling earwax device.


Novel Device

The earwax analytic time was significantly faster using the novel device, in comparison to the clinical use of the syringe. Earwax accurately reflected glucose at both assessments with stronger correlations than HbA1c.

Follow-up postprandial concentrations were more significant than their respective fasting baseline concentrations, reflecting differences in fasting and postprandial glycaemia and more efficient standardisation at follow-up.

Earwax demonstrated to be more predictable than HbA1c in reflecting systemic fasting, postprandial and long-term glucose levels, and to be less influenced by confounders.

Earwax glucose concentration (EGC) was 59% more accurate in predicting glucose levels than HbA1c for measuring longitudinal (chronic) glucose concentration over the two time points (follow-up EGC/mean glucose level correlation: R=0.84; R2=0.71; follow-up HbA1c/mean glucose level correlation: R=0.35; R2=0.12).

Researchers hope this new method could be an effective, rapid and affordable way to assess glucose levels in people who might have diabetes.

The new device can be used at home without medical supervision, allowing for check-ups while maintaining social distancing, and is easy to use without discomfort.

Herane-Vives A, Espinoza S, Sandoval R, Ortega L, Alameda L, Young AH, Arnone D, Hayes A, Benöhr J. A Novel Earwax Method to Measure Acute and Chronic Glucose Levels. Diagnostics. 2020 Dec 10 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics10121069 View full text

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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