Pathology Laboratory

What is the Serum Protein Electrophoresis Test?

Serum protein electrophoresis tests are used to detect abnormal proteins in the blood. This article explains what a serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) is and how it works.

What is Serum Protein Electrophoresis or the SPEP Test?

Serum protein electrophoresis test or Serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) is a laboratory technique that’s used to determine the levels of some types of proteins in a blood sample. There are several reasons a doctor may order this test. Serum protein electrophoresis is used to help diagnose and monitor a variety of different diseases or disorders that have abnormal proteins or protein levels. Electrophoresis is not usually used by itself to diagnose a disease. Instead, it’s used along with other laboratory tests to provide more information to help with diagnosis.

What is serum?

The serum is the liquid part of your blood. Blood appears to be a single substance to the naked eye. However, blood has several components. Both types of blood cells (red and white) and platelets are solid. When these are removed, a liquid is left behind. This is a serum.

What is protein?

Proteins are substances made of small chemicals called amino acids. They have several roles:

  • They provide structure to the body.
  • They help transport nutrients.
  • They help the body fight off disease.

Too much or too little protein can cause problems. The five groups of proteins usually considered during the Serum protein electrophoresis test are:

What all includes in the serum protein electrophoresis test?

Albumin: This protein transports substances and plays a role in tissue growth and repair.

Alpha-1 globulins: The major alpha-1 globulin is called alpha-1-antitrypsin, which is produced by the lungs and liver and increases with inflammatory diseases.

Alpha-2 globulins: This class of protein has many functions in the body and is involved in inflammation.

Beta globulins: These proteins move substances, support immunity, and increase in number in multiple myeloma and conditions like high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

Gamma globulins: These support the immune system and are increased in multiple myeloma, as well as some autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

What is the electrophoresis test?

Electrophoresis is a lab technique used to separate groups of proteins in blood serum. This allows them to be measured and analyzed individually. It involves exposing serum placed in a special type of gel to an electric current. This causes the different proteins to move and group together. The proteins create separate bands on the gel, which are then analyzed by the laboratory.

Serum protein electrophoresis symptoms

Your doctor advises serum protein electrophoresis if you are experiencing symptoms of a condition affecting the proteins in your blood serum. These symptoms could include:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • bone pain or frequent fractures
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • excessive thirst
  • back pain
  • Some conditions that could cause these symptoms are:
  • cancer
  • thyroid problems
  • diabetes
  • anemia
  • liver diseases
  • malnutrition
  • certain autoimmune diseases
  • multiple sclerosis

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Serum protein electrophoresis normal range

The following table shows what most labs would consider normal results for Serum protein electrophoresis testing. These values may vary slightly from facility to facility.

Type of ProteinNormal Value–Amount of Protein
albumin3.8–5.0 (grams/deciliter)
alpha-1 globulin0.1–0.3 (grams/deciliter)
alpha-2 globulin0.6–1.0 (grams/deciliter)
beta globulin0.7–1.4 (grams/deciliter)
gamma globulin0.7–1.6 (grams/deciliter)

The various proteins in the body perform different functions. This means that high or low levels of the five protein types examined during the test can point to different illnesses. Keep in mind that these are just clues. Further investigation will usually be needed to make a definitive diagnosis.

Protein Electrophoresis Test Cost

The serum protein electrophoresis test is done to diagnose and monitor a wide variety of conditions. Serum protein electrophoresis test cost in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad is ₹749.00

You may also interest in reading: 24-hour Urine Test

When is a protein electrophoresis test advised?

The protein electrophoresis test is advised when a patient is suspected to have a condition that is affecting the body’s plasma cells. In such case, the patient may experience symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, bone pain, fatigue, weakness, nausea, constipation, unusual thirst, frequent urination, frequent illnesses or fevers, bones that fracture easily, back pain, and high levels of calcium in the blood.

What other tests can be advised along with the protein electrophoresis test?

Other tests which can be advised along with protein electrophoresis test include HB electrophoresis, immunofixation electrophoresis, complete blood count, blood calcium and electrolyte test, x-rays, and kidney and liver function tests.

Reference: NCBI

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