The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) is a protein that has a specific role in the metabolism of lipids and is the main protein component in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the "good cholesterol"). This test measures the amount of apo A-I in the blood.
Apolipoproteins combine with lipids to transport them throughout the bloodstream. Apolipoproteins provide structural integrity to lipoproteins and shield the water-repellent (hydrophobic) lipids at their center.
Most lipoproteins are cholesterol- or triglyceride-rich and carry lipids throughout the body for uptake by cells. HDL, however, is like an empty taxi. It goes out to the tissues and picks up excess cholesterol, then transports it back to the liver. In the liver, the cholesterol is either recycled for future use or excreted into bile. HDL's reverse transport is the only way that cells can get rid of excess cholesterol. It helps protect the arteries and, if there is enough HDL present, it can even reverse the build-up of fatty plaques, deposits resulting from atherosclerosis that can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Apolipoprotein A is the taxi driver. It activates the enzymes that load cholesterol from the tissues into HDL and allows HDL to be recognized and bound by receptors in the liver at the end of the transport. There are two forms of apolipoprotein A: apo A-I and apo A-II. Apo A-I is found in greater proportion than apo A-II (about 3 to 1). The concentration of apo A-I can be measured directly and tends to rise and fall with HDL levels. Deficiencies in apo A-I correlate with an increased risk of developing CVD.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm. As an alternative, particularly in pediatric care, the blood sample is obtained by pricking the heel or fingertip.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed; however, since this test may be performed at the same time as a complete lipid profile, fasting for at least 12 hours may be required.