Alpha-1 Antitrypsin

Other names: AAT; A1AT

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin is a protein, which is produced by the liver; its primary responsibility is to protect the lungs against an enzyme known as elastase, which is released by the body when an individual is injured or a part of the body becomes inflamed. Elastase is an important enzyme, which breaks down proteins; however, if it is not regulated by AAT, it can start to break down healthy lung tissue.

What is the test used for?

The AAT test is used to diagnose liver dysfunction and emphysema; the test is usually used to identify the cause of early onset liver dysfunction and emphysema and can also be used to monitor an individual’s condition if they have a family history or early symptoms of either of the conditions.

The AAT test is usually recommended for children who experience symptoms of liver dysfunction and those aged under 40 who experience symptoms of emphysema.

How is the test performed?

The AAT test is done by analysing a sample of blood; the blood is usually taken from a vein on the inside of the elbow and then collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled and sent away for analysis at a laboratory.

What do the results mean?

The AAT test can assess the levels of AAT in the blood; however it can also determine if the AAT that is being produced is normal. Abnormal AAT may indicate both liver disease and emphysema; if the test reveals that there are one or two abnormal copies of the SERPINA1 gene, this means that either low levels of AAT, or abnormal AAT, will be produced and this can be passed onto the patient’s children.

If levels of AAT are normal but are lower than average, this may indicate that there is risk of developing emphysema; the lower the levels of AAT, the greater the risk of developing emphysema.

There are many other health conditions which may cause AAT levels to be higher than usual; this is because AAT is classified as an acute phase reactant (this means the levels will increase in response to an infection, inflammation and some forms of cancer). Pregnancy, stress and infections of the thyroid gland may also influence AAT levels.

Specific Blood Tests

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