Electrophoresis is a technique used to separate different elements (fractions) of a blood sample into individual components. Serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) is a screening test that measures the major blood proteins by separating them into five distinct fractions: albumin, alpha1, alpha2, beta, and gamma proteins. Protein electrophoresis can also be performed on urine.
Protein electrophoresis is used to evaluate, diagnose, and monitor a variety of diseases and conditions. It can be used for these purposes because the levels of different blood proteins rise or fall in response to such disorders as cancer, intestinal or kidney protein-wasting syndromes, disorders of the immune system, liver dysfunction, impaired nutrition, and chronic fluid-retaining conditions.
Proteins are major components of muscle, enzymes, hormones, hemoglobin, and other body tissues. Proteins are composed of elements that can be separated from one another by several different techniques: chemical methods, ultracentrifuge, or electrophoresis. There are two major types of electrophoresis: protein electrophoresis and immunoelectrophoresis. Immunoelectrophoresis is used to assess the blood levels of specific types of proteins called immunoglobulins. An immunoelectrophoresis test is usually ordered if a SPEP test has a "spike," or rise, at the immunoglobulin level. Protein electrophoresis is used to determine the total amount of protein in the blood, and to establish the levels of other types of proteins called albumin, alpha1 globulin, alpha2 globulin, and beta-globulin.
Janis O. Flores, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,