Haptoglobin (or Hp) is a protein that is encoded by the Haptoglobin gene. It binds to free Hemoglobin (Hb) in blood plasma. The Hemoglobin is released by red blood cells. Binding to the Hemoglobin inhibits its oxidative behaviour. The complex is then removed by the immune system. Haptoglobin is found in all mammals, some birds, such as ostrich and some bony fish, such as zebra fish. In fish it is in a simpler form.
The Role Of Haptoglobin In The Body
Haptoglobin is produced mainly by hepatic cells. However, it is also produced by other tissue, such as the skin, liver and kidneys. The normal amount to be found in the blood in humans is 41-165 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl).
Binding to free Hemoglobin is an important role in the body. This binding of Hemoglobin in the blood plasma allows degradative enzymes to access the Hemoglobin. This also prevents loss of iron through the kidneys and protects the kidneys.
When It Goes Wrong
If you have the wrong levels of Haptoglobin, this can cause problems. Too little causes not enough oxygen to travel through the body. Having too little can be due to:
- Red blood cells being destroyed faster than they are being made;
- Liver disease;
- Transfusion reaction;
- Immune hemolytic anemia;
- Hematoma (blood build up beneath the skin).
Higher levels can be due to:
- Blockage of the bile ducts;
- Peptic ulcer;
- Ulcerative colitis.
Symptoms of abnormal levels can be:
- Upper abdominal pain;
- Shortness of breath;
- Cold hands/feet;
- Pale skin;
- Abnormal heartbeat;
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
It is important that you have the correct levels of Haptoglobin in your blood. Having abnormal levels can produce a wide range of symptoms. If you are worried about your levels, speak to your doctor. An easy test can be performed to see what your levels are.