The older test provided on-the-spot cholesterol readings, while the new one requires samples to be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
"A test like this is useful in a setting where you want to test cholesterol without taking a blood sample, as when people are applying for life insurance," Evelegh said. The participants in the study were being screened for life insurance coverage.
A skin cholesterol test can work because, "what matters is not how much cholesterol is in the blood but how much cholesterol accumulates in the walls of blood vessels," Evelegh said. "When cholesterol accumulates in blood vessel walls, it accumulates in tissues in general, and, in particular, in the skin," he explained.
One advantage of the skin test is that "you don't have to fast," Evelegh said. "It makes no difference what you ate this morning. That has no effect on the test results." Conventional cholesterol tests do require prior fasting.
Sprecher began working on skin cholesterol testing when he was with the Cleveland Clinic. He continued the work after moving to the University of Pennsylvania. He now is with the GlaxoSmithKline.
Standard cholesterol testing is described by the Mayo Clinic.
SOURCES: Michael Evelegh, Ph.D., executive vice president, clinical and regulatory affairs, PreMD Inc., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; April 17, 2008, presentation, American Heart Association Conference on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, Atlanta
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