Modern innovation is not only important for business or industrial development but also for improving health tools. One of the growing challenges is the increasing incidence of diabetes, which is why innovative diagnostic methods are being developed with the support of the Lithuanian Business Support Agency (LBSA).

The number of people with diabetes will increase

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 700 million adults worldwide will have diabetes by 2045. In 2014, 4.4% of adults had diabetes and the number increased to 5.3% in 2019, representing more than 100,000 adults in Lithuania.

Diabetes mellitus occurs when the production of insulin in the pancreas is disrupted (type I) or when there is insufficient insulin in various tissues in the body (type II). Uncontrolled diabetes causes serious and permanent damage to systemic organs such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, blood vessels and others.

Currently, UAB Noa Genetics has started implementation of the project ‘Early Detection of Type II Diabetes Based on the Microbiota Genetic Tests’ within the framework of the ‘Experiment’ ( Eksperimentas ) measure published by the LBSA. The project has received more than EUR 193,000 funding from the EU Structural Funds.

‘As a biotechnology company, our main goal is to use non-invasive methods to search for clinically relevant prognostic genetic markers which, together with other clinical indicators, can be used to diagnose the disease, predict the course of the disease and select the optimal medication-based treatment,’ says Sigita Jonaitytė, the company’s manager.

The company operates in two cities – experimental research (also known as the ‘wet’ part) is carried out in a laboratory in Vilnius, while in Druskininkai, where the company is registered, experimental preparations and Bio-X analysis take place.

Project to be completed in the autumn

‘The importance of innovation is unquestionable and it is very important that it is applied in a wide range of areas, the benefits of which will be directly felt by people taking care of their health,’ said Aurimas Želvys, Head of the LBSA.

Noa Genetics is looking for differences while studying the microbiota in stool (faeces) samples from people with and without type 2 diabetes (control group) and small RNAs, and comparing their expression between the two different groups.

‘Why is this so important? Clinically relevant biomarkers would allow early detection of the disease, i.e. before the patient notices any symptoms. This would, depending on other clinical indicators, either prevent the onset of the disease or slow down its progression. Since a large proportion of patients are asymptomatic, especially at the beginning of the disease, T2DM [type 2 diabetes mellitus] goes unnoticed,’ says Jonaitytė, who together with her team hope to complete the project by autumn next year.

It is expected that a diagnostic kit will be developed that will allow the hospital laboratory to inform the patient within one day after obtaining a stool sample whether they have type 2 diabetes.

World Diabetes Day is celebrated on 14 November, which coincides with the birthday of Frederick Banting. He, together with John MacLeod, discovered a way to produce insulin. In 1923, Banting and MacLeod were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for this work.

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