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An electrophoresis case study

Madihah Abbas, Specialist Biochemistry Team Manager at Christie Pathology Partnership, looks at result interpretation, comparing gel and capillary zone electrophoresis.

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a B-cell malignancy derived from antibody-producing plasma cells in the bone marrow, which accounts for 1% of all cancers. Changes in immunoglobulins are of most interest in myeloma.

Serum protein electrophoresis (SPE) is used to identify the presence of monoclonal proteins in the serum, which can indicate that a patient has a monoclonal gammopathy, such as multiple myeloma.

The principles of gel SPE are as follows: at pH 8.8, proteins are separated in agarose, under the influence of an electric field. The degree of migration depends on the mass to charge ratio of the protein. Human serum proteins are separated into six major fractions: albumin, alpha-1 globulins, alpha-2 globulins, beta-1 globulins, beta-2 globulins and gamma globulins. The electrophoresis pattern produced when the medium is stained with amido black is scanned at 570 nm, and the electropherograms are evaluated visually for pattern abnormalities.

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