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There are thousands of enzymes in the cells in human bodies, where they normally act as catalysts for all the chemical reactions that take place in these cells. They are speed up these reactions and without them, these reactions either wouldn't occur or would be too slow for the cells' needs. Beside the fact that every organ in our body has its own enzymes, many enzymes are also normally present in the blood and can be measured there. It is important to remember that when cells or tissues are damaged by disease or injury, large amounts of these enzymes leak out, causing blood tests to show that enzymes are elevated above normal. A laboratory report of elevated liver enzymes is common and it doesn't indicate a specific disease. However, it may be due to a liver disorder, even if you don't have any symptoms of liver problems. Liver enzymes help maintain a variety of chemical and metabolic processes that occur in the liver. Normally, only very small amounts of these enzymes are present in your blood.
Why measuring enzymes?
It is important to know that measuring enzymes isn't the final diagnosis - it is only a clue to a possible diagnosis or problem, not a diagnosis in itself. Elevated enzyme level should only prompt a physician to look further into the areas of the body which may be leaking enzymes into the blood.
Two enzymes often measured on routine tests are known as:
- ALT (alanine transaminase) - ALT is found in the liver, heart, muscles and kidneys. It is also called as SGPT (serum glutamic-pyruvic transaminase)
- AST (aspartate transaminase) - AST is in the liver, heart, muscles, kidneys, brain, pancreas, spleen and lungs. It is also called SGOT (serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase)
We can see that two organs that are primary involved in elevation of enzymes are liver and muscles. The liver is an important internal organ because it performs many functions. It helps detoxify the many toxins in the body, makes proteins that are used to help clot the blood and other proteins that help draw fluid into our blood vessels.
Enzymes are capable of processing millions of molecules every second. They are very specific and react with only one or a few types of molecules.