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Alpha-fetoproteins (AFP, α-fetoproteins) are the first alpha-globulins to appear in mammalian sera during development of the embryo and the dominant serum proteins in early embryonic life. Their level drops after birth, but may be elevated in certain diseases.

Use in Obstetrics

They may also be elevated in the amniotic fluid and maternal serum during pregnancy in anencephaly One determination procedure uses radioimmunoassay of infant heel-stick blood. [1] The authors see AFP as a screening test requiring followup determination for other genetic disorders.

Their use as a fetal diagnostic is declining.[2]

Use in Oncology and Gastroenterology

They reappear in the adult serum during certain pathologic states, such as primary hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatolenticular degeneration (Wilson's disease). [3]


  1. Mlzejewski GJ et al. (January 1983), "Measurement of serum alpha-fetoprotein in early infancy: utilization of dried blood specimens.", Pediatr Res. 17 (1): 47-50
  2. Kjerstin FW, Gottvall T (2007), "Routine assessment of amniotic fluid alpha-Fetoprotein in early second-trimester", Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica 86 (2): 167-171, ISSN 0001-6349
  3. Covin, RB (April 4, 2006), Liver and Gallbladder Pathology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey