Amino acids play a vital role in metabolism. They are needed for breaking down food and are the very basis of protein synthesis. The human body cannot grow and develop in the absence of amino acids. Essential amino acids like lysine, leucine and tryptophan are not prepared by the body and are supplied through foods like nuts, grains, vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs and some meats. However, non-essential amino acids like proline, glutamic acid and glycine are produced by the body by breaking down essential amino acids. However, infants are usually unable to synthesize non-essential amino acids as their bodies are not developed enough to do so. Hence, they are usually faced with amino acid deficiencies that hamper their growth and development.
Plasma amino acids test is a test done to determine the level of amino acids in the blood. Amino acids plasma testing will give a clear picture of the infant’s ability to breakdown proteins. If a particular amino acid is found in excess, it indicates the body’s inability to metabolize that particular amino acid. The amino acid levels are usually low when the child is suffering from certain medical conditions or has just had a fever. Low amino acid levels may also be indicative of nutritional deficiencies. Testing will provide information helpful in further treatment.
For testing amino acids in blood plasma the infant would generally have to be fed not less than 4 hours prior to the test. Your child is bound to cry either as a result of the slight pain or due to the unfamiliar faces and procedure being conducted. If your child is old enough to understand the procedure, preparing him mentally for the test would prove beneficial. You, as a parent, would need to be relaxed as any anxiety you feel, will pass on to your baby.
In the case of infants, it is difficult to draw blood from a vein in the arm as they are unable to stay still. Hence, the amino acids in blood plasma are tested by taking a blood sample from the heel. The heel is first cleansed thoroughly with a germicide. The skin is then punctured with a lancet or a sharp needle. The blood is collected on a glass slide, test strip or in a small glass tube called a pipette. A bandage may then be placed on the punctured wound to stop the bleeding, if any. The blood is then tested in a laboratory through a process called chromatography.