The Test Sample
What is being tested?
Smooth muscle antibodies (SMA) are autoantibodies, proteins produced by the body's immune system that recognize and attack its own actin, a protein found in smooth muscle and other tissues, especially the liver. This test detects and measures the amount (titer) of SMA (or antibody against actin) in the blood.
The production of smooth muscle or actin antibodies is strongly associated with autoimmune hepatitis. It may also sometimes be seen in other forms of liver disease, such as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), but usually at lower antibody titers.
Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the immune system attacks the body's liver cells. It presents as an acute or chronic inflammation of the liver that is not due to another cause, such as a viral infection, exposure to a drug or toxin, a hereditary disorder, or alcohol abuse. It can lead to liver cirrhosis and, in some cases, to liver failure. Autoimmune hepatitis can affect anyone at any age, but about 80% of patients are women. In the United States, more than 70% of people with this disorder will have SMA or actin antibodies, either alone or along with antinuclear antibodies (ANA).
The majority of smooth muscle antibodies produced with autoimmune hepatitis is specifically directed against a protein called actin or F-actin. Testing is available for specific actin autoantibodies, but it is not available in every laboratory. Tests for actin antibodies detect more cases of autoimmune hepatitis but, in some studies, give more false-positive results than tests for smooth muscle antibodies.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
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.