11/10/2012 10:57 am ET

SFRP4 Protein Linked With Increased Risk Of Later Developing Type 2 Diabetes

A test to early detect Type 2 diabetes could soon be on the way.

Researchers at the Lund University Diabetes Centre have identified a protein called SFRP4 that, when at above-average levels in the blood, is linked with a five-times increased risk of developing diabetes later on, compared with those with below-average levels of the protein.

"This makes it a strong risk marker that is present several years before diagnosis," study researcher Anders Rosengren said in a statement. "We have also identified the mechanism for how SFRP4 impairs the secretion of insulin. The marker therefore reflects not only an increased risk, but also an ongoing disease process."

The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, included monitoring blood levels of SFRP4 in people without diabetes three times, at three-year intervals. The researchers found that 9 percent of people who had below-average levels of SFRP4 went on to develop Type 2 diabetes by the end of the study, compared with 37 percent of those who had above-average levels of SFRP4.

"In the long term, our findings could also lead to new methods of treating Type 2 diabetes by developing ways of blocking the protein SFRP4 in the insulin-producing beta cells and reducing inflammation, thereby protecting the cells," Rosengren said in the statement.

Any method to early detect diabetes is important because it could help prevent complications from the disease, the American Diabetes Association pointed out. And some people with the condition may not even present with any symptoms.

Want to lower your risk of diabetes? Click through the slideshow for some known factors to affect risk:

What Affects Diabetes Risk?