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What Is Aspartate?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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Aspartate is an enzyme that is naturally produced by the human body. It is considered to be a nonessential amino acid. Aspartate is mainly used by the liver to break down and synthesize protein. High levels of the enzyme can indicate liver disease or organ tissue damage.

The pure form of aspartate is aspartic acid. The enzyme is considered to be a salt or ester of aspartic acid. In other words, it is a separate form. Many major organs contain low levels of aspartate.

Organs that typically use aspartate include the heart, liver, kidneys and brain. Numerous red blood cells also contain the amino acid. All of these organs use aspartate to convert protein into energy. They also rely on protein synthesis in order to regenerate and grow tissue.

Improper levels of aspartate might indicate an underlying condition or disease. Under normal conditions, levels of the amino acid are typically low. Abnormal levels might indicate that an organ or the body's red blood cells are unable to break down and synthesize protein properly. For example, if the liver is damaged due to liver disease or scarred tissue, it may release more amino acids into the bloodstream.

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Anemia is another cause of elevated levels of aspartate. A test called aminotransferase (AST) can be used to determine the levels of the amino acid in the bloodstream. Traumatic or serious damage to an organ, such as the heart, can result in elevated levels for up to four days. Cardiac arrest would be an example of serious damage.

The more damage that occurs to an organ, the higher the bloodstream levels of this enzyme become. Conditions such as liver or heart disease will most likely result in elevated levels. For this reason, an AST test is also used to help determine whether an individual might have incurred damage to a major organ. In addition, the test can check to see if an individual is responding to treatment for a disease related to a major organ.

Some medications, such as anti-cholesterol pills, might cause damage to an individual's liver. An AST test is used to monitor whether any damage is occurring. A blood sample is usually taken during this type of test.

Stress might lead to lower levels of aspartic acid in the body. This is usually seen in individuals who are under major stress for extended periods of time. Since the body typically replenishes the enzyme successfully, deficient levels are rare.

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