Procedure For Conducting a Serum Protein Electrophoresis Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Serum Protein Electrophoresis Test (SPEP)

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:

  1. Albumin - this is a protein which gives thickness to the blood so that it doesn't leak out from the blood vessels. Albumin also carries nutrition and chemicals through the blood stream.
  2. Alpha - 1 globulin - this is also known as the good cholesterol or the high density lipoprotein.
  3. Alpha - 2 globulin - this is the protein that binds with hemoglobin to enable it to carry oxygen. The protein is also known as heptoglobin.
  4. Beta globulin - this is another protein that helps carry nutrients through the blood stream. These globulins also help fight infection.
  5. Gamma globulin - also called the antibodies, these are the body's prime defense system. These can get bound to infectious viruses and bacteria, enabling the immune system to eliminate them.


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.

Interpretation of Results

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.