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I am now on to the part of my project that involves running my plasma samples. I thought I would give you guys a brief overview of what I will be assessing the plasma for and why we test for them.
We get the plasma by spinning down the blood in a centrifuge and then removing the plasma layer from the red blood cell layer. Measuring the different chemicals in plasma is the only way to tell whether an animal is in organ failure without biopsies or surgery!
First, calcium. In trying to look at the differences between males and females, calcium levels should be higher in females that are actively reproducing. Calcium is also involved in cell membrane integrity and bone integrity. Phosphorus works together with calcium. Phosphorus inhibits calcium absorption. The best way to use calcium and phosphorus is from the ratio between the two. It can tell us about bone absorption and the health of the pathways that absorb and excrete them. A good ration is greater than 1.5 Ca: 1 Phosphorus.
The egg shell will be less sturdy during a Ca deficit in the mother.
Total proteins are a measure of the amount of protein in the blood. It is made up of albumin and globulin. Albumin functions to keep blood cells within the blood vessels and is also involved in tissue growth and healing. It can also be an indicator for liver and kidney function. Globulin is composed of antibodies and inflammatory proteins that help fight infection.
Uric acid is a parameter that is not measured in humans because we do not make it but it is very important in reptiles. This is the end-product of protein metabolism. It can also indicate the hydration status and dietary status. High uric acid can mean kidney failure, but can also mean that the animal just ate a high protein meal – and in a box turtle this usually means an invertebrate or fish.
Bile acids are a very important indicator of liver function. The acids are made in the liver so if the liver is compromised the bile acids production in the body will be compromised. Bile acids are involved in the breakdown of dietary fats.
Aspartate aminotransferase is an indicator of muscle health. It can also indicate organ health and is very helpful in diagnosing liver disease. Creatinine kinase (CK) is also an indicator of muscle health but it is less specific than aspartate aminotransferase. Generally, we use CK to determine if AST is high because of liver damage or due to muscle damage (if the CK is high then it is probably muscle damage).