Analysis of serum protein levels in the blood
Image by jcomp on Freepik

Definition of serum proteins

Proteins are in a way the essential building blocks of our cells: they play a role in all the reactions of the body.

There are more than a hundred different proteins circulating in the blood, albumin accounting for 60% of them.

In addition to a role in transporting many substances (hormones, lipids, etc.), blood proteins are involved in coagulation, immunity, maintenance of blood pressure, etc.

It is possible to perform a total serum protein assay, which provides information on the functioning of many organs.

Why do serum protein analysis?

Serum (serum) protein analysis is useful in many situations to guide a diagnosis, determine the severity of a disease or monitor the effectiveness of treatment.

It is a very common examination that evaluates the function of certain organs (liver, kidneys) and highlights certain abnormalities (inflammatory syndrome, autoimmune diseases, lymphomas, etc.).

Thus, this dosage can be prescribed, among others, in the case of:

  • inflammatory syndrome
  • deterioration of the general condition
  • abnormalities of the blood count (blood test)
  • unexplained bone or joint pain
  • liver problems
  • renal impairment

What results can be expected from serum protein analysis?

The determination of serum or plasma proteins is done by electrophoresis, after a simple blood test: the blood (serum) is placed in an electric field, which causes the proteins to “migrate”. They separate according to their electrical charge and weight, which makes it possible to distinguish them from each other and to identify anomalies.

This test is usually done at the same time as other basic tests, such as complete blood count or sedimentation rate. Indeed, the level of protein in the blood (proteinemia) depends not only on protein but also on blood volume (dilution can be greater or smaller).

What results can be expected from serum protein analysis?

As an indication, the normal value of serum total protein is between 65 and 80 grams/L. The albumin/globulin ratio is between 1.2 and 1.8.

An increase in total plasma proteins (hyperproteinemia) is observed in many situations, such as dehydration (“heat stroke”, diarrhea, vomiting) or during various diseases such as myeloma that cause an increase in the mass of circulating proteins.

Decreases in total protein concentration (hypoproteinemia) can be caused by a lack of intake (malnutrition) or absorption, by a defect in synthesis (liver failure), by abnormal loss in the kidney, or by fluid overload (hemodilution).

The electrophoresis analysis shows the distribution of the main blood proteins and traces a characteristic “profile”, which can be interpreted by the doctor.

Thus, in the case of the inflammatory syndrome, for example, the “trace” will be typical, showing an increase in alpha-globulins (hyperalphaglobulinemia) and a decrease in albumin.

The increase in beta-globulins, on the other hand, may mean the presence of iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, or biliary obstruction.

Nephrotic syndrome (kidney dysfunction) will be characterized by hypoalbuminemia and hyperalphaglobulinemia.

Only the doctor will be able to identify an abnormal tracing and prescribe if necessary additional tests to make a diagnosis.

Image Credit: Image by jcomp on Freepik

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