Red blood cells membrane micropolarity as a novel diagnostic indicator of type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Giada Bianchetti, Flavio Di Giacinto, Dario Pitocco, Alessandro Rizzi, Gaetano Emanuele Rizzo, Francesca De Leva, Andrea Flex, Enrico di Stasio, Gabriele Ciasca, Marco De Spirito, Giuseppe Maulucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Classification of the category of diabetes is extremely important for clinicians to diagnose and select the correct treatment plan. Glycosylation, oxidation and other post-translational modifications of membrane and transmembrane proteins, as well as impairment in cholesterol homeostasis, can alter lipid density, packing, and interactions of Red blood cells (RBC) plasma membranes in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, thus varying their membrane micropolarity. This can be estimated, at a submicrometric scale, by determining the membrane relative permittivity, which is the factor by which the electric field between the charges is decreased relative to vacuum. Here, we employed a membrane micropolarity sensitive probe to monitor variations in red blood cells of healthy subjects (n=16) and patients affected by type 1 (T1DM, n=10) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM, n=24) to provide a cost-effective and supplementary indicator for diabetes classification. We find a less polar membrane microenvironment in T2DM patients, and a more polar membrane microenvironment in T1DM patients compared to control healthy patients. The differences in micropolarity are statistically significant among the three groups (p<0.01). The role of serum cholesterol pool in determining these differences was investigated, and other factors potentially altering the response of the probe were considered in view of developing a clinical assay based on RBC membrane micropolarity. These preliminary data pave the way for the development of an innovative assay which could become a tool for diagnosis and progression monitoring of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100030
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta: X
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Fluorescence lifetime microscopy
  • Membrane micropolarity
  • Metabolic imaging
  • Personalized medicine
  • Red blood cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Spectroscopy

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  • Cite this

    Bianchetti, G., Di Giacinto, F., Pitocco, D., Rizzi, A., Rizzo, G. E., De Leva, F., Flex, A., di Stasio, E., Ciasca, G., De Spirito, M., & Maulucci, G. (2019). Red blood cells membrane micropolarity as a novel diagnostic indicator of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Analytica Chimica Acta: X, 3, [100030].