The serum protein electrophoresis test (SPEP), also commonly known as the serum protein test, is a test that measures specific proteins in the blood stream. As opposed to the total serum protein test, which gives an overall amount of protein in the blood, the SPEP is able to measure the amount of each of the different proteins present in the blood.
Proteins, which are actually made up of amino acids, basically carry positive and negative electrical charges which make them fluid when they are in an electric field. In the SPEP, the process of electrophoresis separates out the various proteins present in the blood. These proteins are separated out into various groups of similar proteins.
Albumin and globulin are the major protein constituents of blood. Both of these substances are carried through the blood stream however, when electrophoresis is used, these two proteins separate out into five different groups which are:
When current is passed through them during the process of electrophoresis, each of these proteins moves to forma a group. The speed at which the proteins move towards their group and the patterns in which they move are monitored to help identify various diseases.
Some of the diseases that can be identified using this method are multiple myeloma, amyloidosis, and macroglobulinemia. The test can also be done to identify the cause of hypogammaglobulinemia.
High values in the test may be indicative of a problem with the immune system. Diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, cancers, multiple myeloma, rheumatoid arthritis, lymphoma, and dehydration can be diagnosed using this test. Apart from this, this heart, liver and kidney diseases, infections and pregnancy can also be detected using these tests.
When the values are low, it can be an indication of low levels of thyroid, starvation and diseases of the lung.