Important Proteins and Their Flux in the Blood and Urine

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  • 0:01 The Importance of Protein
  • 0:49 The Importance of Albumin
  • 4:38 The Importance of Hemoglobin
  • 7:04 Other Proteins
  • 7:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss two types of protein found in your blood, known as albumin and hemoglobin. We will discuss what their increases or decreases in the blood or urine may indicate in a person.

The Importance of Protein

Eat your vegetables! Every kid has heard that from their parents when growing up. Vegetables are super important in providing you with vitamins and minerals that help you survive.

But getting your daily amount of protein is equally important in keeping you healthy. Proteins are used by your body to build strong muscles, speed up biochemical reactions, and even transport drugs within your body.

The roles of proteins in your body are as varied as the different types of meat you can eat and the different ways you can cook each one!

Problems only begin when certain important types of proteins used by your body are found in abnormally low or high numbers in the blood or urine. Two of these proteins will be discussed in detail in this lesson.

The Importance of Albumin

The first type of protein I want to discuss is called albumin. Albumin is a protein made by the liver that maintains oncotic pressure and transports things like drugs and hormones. It is sometimes abbreviated as 'Alb' on blood test results.

Also, just in case you didn't know, oncotic pressure is the sponge-like force that keeps fluid from leaking out of your blood vessels. If there's no albumin, then the sponge-like force disappears, and fluid will begin to exit the blood vessels and into the body's tissues, leading to a very swollen appearance in a person with hypoalbuminemia, an abnormally low level of albumin in the blood, approximately less than 4g/dL. The swelling as a result of fluid accumulation in your body's tissues is known as edema and can be caused by many other issues, such as heart failure, kidney disease, and so forth.

For our lesson's purpose, though, let's focus on albumin. The causes for hypoalbuminemia shouldn't be too difficult to understand. These include:

  • Malnutrition. If you're not eating enough quality food, then the liver will simply be unable to produce albumin. The liver is a like a factory. A factory needs a good steady supply of raw material (the food you eat) in order to have something with which to produce a product.
  • Another reason for a low amount of albumin is liver disease. In a similar light, if our factory is broken or its workers are sick, then no one can produce the albumin.
  • Furthermore, kidney disease can result in low amounts of albumin. Normally, the kidney's glomeruli, the structures that filter the blood to help produce urine, don't allow albumin through their capillary walls because it is too big to pass through. But if a kidney disorder, such as glomerulonephritis, allows for albumin to leak into the urine through the glomerular capillary walls, then proteinuria (protein in the urine) occurs, and this will cause the urine to become foamy-looking.
  • Glomerulonephritis, just one type of kidney problem that can lead to hypoalbuminemia and proteinuria, refers to the inflammation of the kidney's glomerulus. If the glomerulus is inflamed and damaged for any reason, then its capillary walls become permeable to albumin, which then leaks out from the blood and into the urine. This can be likened to an example with a spaghetti strainer. The spaghetti strainer is our glomerulus. It has holes that let things like water through, but bigger things like the spaghetti cannot move through it. But if the holes get bigger as a result of damage, then even the spaghetti will fall through the spaghetti strainer.
  • Finally, bowel disease can result in hypoalbuminemia. In a similar fashion, if something causes the intestines to become inflamed, such as an inflammatory bowel disease, then albumin will leak out of the intestinal vessels. This results in something called protein-losing enteropathy. Again, this is when protein, such as albumin, is lost in large quantities in the gastrointestinal tract - in quantities larger than can be replaced by the liver's productive capacities.

Oh, and as a final note on albumin: hyperalbuminemia, or an increase in the measured levels of albumin in the blood, approximately more than 5.0 g/dL, is found as a result of dehydration. It's not that there's more albumin itself, it's that the concentration of it in the blood has increased as result of decreased fluid volume in the vasculature, meaning it's only a relative, as opposed to absolute, increase of albumin.

The Importance of Hemoglobin

Okay, besides albumin, another important protein is called hemoglobin, sometimes abbreviated as 'Hb' or 'Hgb.' Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen.

Hemoglobinemia refers to an abnormally increased level of hemoglobin in the blood, approximately greater than 17.5 g/dL. I'd like for you to think about why this may be the case on your own. You know some important things already. You know that it is part of red blood cells. This is a big clue.

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