Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc.?
A: The company was founded in 1993 to commercialize micronutrient testing. With the support of clinicians throughout the country, it has become the premier provider of functional testing.
Q: What is Micronutrient Testing?
A: SpectraCell's micronutrient testing is a next generation blood test for measuring specific vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essential micronutrients within an individual's white blood cells (lymphocytes). It is the gold standard for this type of test.
Q: Who developed the technology?
A: William Shive, Ph.D., chairman of the department of biochemistry and a researcher in the field of nutrition at the University of Texas, began work on a diagnostic test for clinicians in 1978. His work was strongly influenced by researchers like Roger Williams, Ph.D., the progressive and eminent scientist who wrote Biochemical Individuality and discovered vitamin B5. SpectraCell later licensed this technology from the Clayton Foundation for Research.
Q: How was the technology developed?
A: Dr. Shive first identified appropriate cells for the functional assays. He selected lymphocyte cells because they are simple to collect (via venipuncture), easily isolated from other whole blood components, and maintainable in culture for days to weeks.
Q: How do lymphocytes provide a nutritional history?
A: Most lymphocytes obtained by venipuncture are in a resting state in terms of cell division. Since they have a 4- to 6-month lifespan, the nutrient levels accumulated in these lymphocytes represent a history of an individual's nutrient status. This situation is analogous to using HbA1c measurements to approximate a diabetic person's glucose levels over the months preceding a test. Thus, lymphocytes provide a history rather than a snapshot of nutrient intake.
Resting lymphocytes can be stimulated by a lymphocyte-specific mitogen to undergo cell division and grow in culture. The degree of growth that the lymphocytes can maintain is directly related to the nutrients they have available. Thus, our micronutrient testing provides a functional intracellular assessment of nutrient status accumulated in human lymphocytes over their resting lifespan.
Q: Is SpectraCell's Micronutrient Testing different from other tests?
A: SpectraCell’s tests are more clinically useful than standard serum tests. Standard tests only measure static quantities of vitamins and minerals present in serum, primarily reflecting dietary intake. But, with our patented technology, we assess long-term intracellular requirements using each patient’s lymphocytes. Under a variety of nutrient depletion conditions, we measure the growth response of these cells to mitogenic stimulation. This determines functional intracellular deficiencies, which might not be detected by standard serum tests, and provides a powerful clinical assessment tool.
Q: What is a Functional (or Subclinical) Deficiency?
A: A functional deficiency encompasses any of the factors that reduce the efficacy of a nutrient. Thus, a given nutrient may be present, but it may not be properly activated, appropriately localized or have sufficient cofactors to function at a normal level of activity. No matter what the cause, the result will be a defect in the biochemical pathways that depend upon that nutrient for optimal function. A deficient or defective pathway may operate at a sub-optimal level for many months, or even years, before a clinical symptom becomes apparent.
Q: Why test Micronutrients?
A: Nutrient status is a vital foundation of health. Each micronutrient plays an indispensable role in promoting optimal cell function. When some cells do not function at their best, the foundation of our health is compromised, setting the stage for the development of disease. Identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies is an important step in the long-term maintenance of optimal health.
Vitamin deficiencies aren’t just a reflection of diet. Since we are all biochemically unique, nutrient deficiencies will vary from patient to patient, and do not necessarily correlate directly with nutrient intake, even among those with similar health conditions. Many factors beyond diet determine whether nutrient function is adequate. These include biochemical individuality, genetic predisposition, absorption and metabolism, age, disease conditions and medications.
Q: What diseases or conditions are linked to nutrient imbalance?
A: Arthritis, Parkinson's, alcoholism/substance abuse, behavioral disorders, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic fatigue, macular degeneration, diabetes, immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and osteoporosis have been linked to nutrient imbalances. Studies published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirm the connection between nutrient deficiencies and disease processes.
Q: Who can benefit from Micronutrient Testing?
A: You can be deficient in micronutrients and not even know it. Studies have shown that 50% of patients taking a multivitamin are functionally deficient in one or more essential nutrients that are vital to long term health. Scientific evidence also confirms such deficiencies are associated with disease processes and the overall condition of your health. Deficiencies suppress the function of the immune system and contribute to degenerative processes. So, anyone who is interested in feeling his or her best can benefit from these tests.
Q: How do the tests work?
A: Blood is collected (no fasting is required) and sent to our laboratory. Lymphocyte cells are isolated and grown in a series of patented culture media. The cells are stimulated to grow in the control media containing optimal amounts of specific micronutrients. As each micronutrient is removed from the media, the cells must use their own internal mechanisms (reserves or metabolic processes) to grow. If cells grow optimally, they are functioning adequately and thus are not deficient. If cells do not grow optimally, then a deficiency is indicated. For example, when B12 is removed from the media and cell growth is not sufficient, this indicates that the lymphocyte cells have a functional intracellular deficiency of B12.
Q: What about people who maintain a "healthy" lifestyle?
A: Even people with healthy habits can have deficiencies. Biochemical individuality, absorption, chronic conditions, age, and lifestyle influence individual micronutrient requirements. Even a healthy-looking person can have micronutrient deficiencies that may only be revealed through testing.
Q: Where can I learn more about nutrition issues and research?
A: SpectraCell is committed to providing clinicians and patients with the latest research and clinical information on the role of nutrition and nutritional biochemistry in preventing and managing chronic diseases and supporting optimal health. The research section of our website includes a wealth of information on these topics.
Q: What do you mean by "A Window on Intracellular Function"
A: It's our company tagline, but it's more than a slogan. It represents our shared fascination and passion for functional intracellular testing. It also reflects our commitment to clinicians and the health of their patients.
Q: What is SPECTROX™?
A: It's a total antioxidant function test that assesses the ability of cells to resist damage caused by free radicals and other forms of oxidative stress. SPECTROX is the most accurate and clinically useful way to assess total antioxidant function. The test uses the same technology as our micronutrient testing.
Q: Who certifies your lab?
A: SpectraCell is accredited by CLIA. This certification requires the lab to adopt stringent Quality Assurance protocols and stand physical examination on a regular basis.
Q: Will Medicare or Medicaid pay for these tests?
A: SpectraCell accepts Medicare assignment and Medicare covers most of the tests. SpectraCell also accepts Medicaid in many states. Medicare claims can only be filed if the tests are ordered by a licensed Medicare physician.
Q: Does private insurance pay for these tests?
A: Most private indemnity insurance carriers cover micronutrient testing including PPO, EPO and POS plans. Patients are responsible for co-payments and are invoiced by SpectraCell for this fee. Patients who have not met their deductible also receive an invoice from SpectraCell.