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Alpha-2-macroglobulin is a protease inhibitor and is 1 of the largest plasma proteins. It transports hormones and enzymes, exhibits effector and inhibitor functions in the development of the lymphatic system, and inhibits components of the complement system and hemostasis system.
Increased levels of alpha-2-macroglobulin are found in nephrotic syndrome when other lower molecular weight proteins are lost and alpha-2-macroglobulin is retained because of its large size. In patients with liver cirrhosis and diabetes, the levels are found to be elevated.
Patients with acute pancreatitis exhibit low serum concentrations which correlate with the severity of the disease. In hyperfibrinolytic states, after major surgery, in septicemia and severe hepatic insufficiency, the measured levels of alpha-2-macroglobulin are often low. Acute myocardial infarction patients with low alpha-2-macroglobulin have been reported to have a significantly better prognosis with regard to the >1 year survival time.
Evaluation of patients with nephrotic syndrome and pancreatitis
Values are elevated in the nephrotic syndrome in proportion to the severity of protein loss (lower molecular weight).
Values are low in proteolytic diseases such as pancreatitis.
Deficiency or increase may be seen as elevated or decreased alpha-2 peaks on serum protein electrophoresis.
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