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Exeter scientists are recognised for leading the way in improving diabetes diagnosis

Exeter researchers

Researchers at the University of Exeter developed a simple test that can improve diabetes diagnosis. Their work has now been recognised for the outstanding contribution it has made to diabetes care.

Scientists at the University of Exeter were runners-up this week for the Guardian’s award for research impact. The team – including Diabetes UK-funded researchers Dr Richard Oram and Dr Angus Jones – developed a simple and cheap way to measure C-peptide. C-peptide is a molecule our body makes while it produces insulin.

By measuring C-peptide levels we can tell how much insulin someone is making. And this can help doctors to tell which type of diabetes someone has: people with Type 1 diabetes have very low C-peptide levels, while people with Type 2 diabetes have higher levels.

Getting the right diagnosis of diabetes is so important, it means people will receive the right treatment for them and could avoid serious complications. But different forms of diabetes can be difficult to accurately diagnose, resulting in thousands of cases of misdiagnosis every year in the UK. Measuring C-peptide can help avoid this.

Revolutionary C-peptide test

C-peptide tests used to be expensive and inaccurate, but thanks to Exeter’s research this changed. Their scientists developed a new, simpler way to measure C-peptide. This has meant many more people with diabetes can benefit. 

The team first developed a urine test and then they discovered a way to make blood samples more stable, so a simple blood test could also be used to measure C-peptide. These tests are now available in nearly every hospital in the UK. They provide healthcare professionals with a quick, easy way to distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

As well as helping to make sure people get the right diagnosis from the start, this test can also be used to spot people who’ve been misdiagnosed. Professor Mark Strachan decided to give everyone in his clinic with Type 1 diabetes a C-peptide test to check they had been correctly diagnosed. He discovered that a handful of his patients actually had Type 2 or rare forms of genetic diabetes. As a result, some of these individuals were able to stop insulin and be treated with tablets instead.

Watch Dr Angus Jones talk about the importance of measuring C-peptide to get the right diagnosis and right treatment here


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