Spectracell Functional Intracellular Nutrition Test

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Tulsa functional medicine spectracell micronutrient testing

Spectracell is a cell function test not a nutrition test

The Spectracell Functional Intracellular Assay (FIA) test is one of the best and most comprehensive lab evaluations of your intra-cellular nutritional status. List to our Podcast on the Spectracell test.

Your health is dependent on the function of your individual cells.

I’m a soldier. I’ve been in the US Army for nearly 30 years. I’ve been amazed at the ability of the US military to accomplish some unbelievable tasks. Big stuff. But, these accomplishments are simply the sum total of each individual soldier doing their job. The better each soldier functions the better the Army functions.

It is the same thing with your body. Your body can’t be healthy if your individual cells aren’t healthy. You NEED your cells to function at the highest level possible!

Nutrition is quite simply the single most significant contributor to most of our patients’ health. We often recommend nutritional supplementation and daily vitamins and minerals.

But how do you know if you are getting enough?

Spectracell answers this question. It offers the comprehensive nutritional analysis. But it isn’t measuring nutrition levels. It is measuring cellular function. It tells us, based on cell performance, how your nutrition and supplements stack up.


I take supplements so why am I deficient?

That is a great question and we hear it all the time! There are several reasons your cells could be dysfunctional due to nutrient insufficiency.

  1. Insufficient Intake – if you don’t get enough then it would make sense that your levels are too low. If you are taking a supplement and still low then you aren’t taking enough, they are poor quality supplements, or you have an absorption problem. Make sure you take the highest quality supplements available.
  2. Absorption – either your intestines aren’t absorbing nutrients or the nutrients aren’t getting into the cells. Either of these can occur for a number of reasons.
  3. Storage – if you eliminate the nutrients as fast as you get them in you can still be deficient. Also, some conditions will actually sequester nutrients. Anemia of chronic disease is an example.
  4. Metabolism & Excretion – increased metabolism can deplete nutrients and may increase the need for higher levels. If you excrete nutrients at higher levels you could also be deficient.
  5. Genetic influence – certain genetic SNPs may increase the need for higher levels of certain nutrients. Consider MTHFR.
  6. Disease – higher levels of nutrients are required by some diseases
  7. Drugs – numerous medications will deplete nutrients. For example, statins deplete CoQ10 & Omega-3s
  8. Age – older patients may need additional supplementation
  9. Pregnancy – an example is the increased need for folate during pregnancy. There are many others as well making Prenatal Vitamins a great idea!
  10. Exercise – the increased metabolic processes during exercise may increase the need for higher levels of some nutrients.
  11. Smoking – smoking also depletes a number of nutrients
  12. Alcohol – same as smoking

There are many reasons why you may be functionally deficient in some nutrients and it is very important to understand these. It can be a game changer!


How Is The Spectracell Test Performed?

  1. A mixture of lymphocytes (white blood cells) is isolated from the blood. We draw 2 blue and black top tubes to send to the lab.
  2. These cells are grown in a defined culture medium containing optimal levels of all essential nutrients necessary to sustain their growth in cell culture.
  3. The T-lymphocytes (T cells) are stimulated to grow with a mitogen called PHA (phytohemagglutinin) and growth is measured by the incorporation of tritiated (radioactive) thymidine into the DNA of the cells.

The growth response under optimal conditions (the optimal culture medium) is defined as 100% and all other growth rates are compared to this 100% level of growth. In other words, this baseline test is the standard for that patient. Each nutrient assessment test that is performed is compared to this baseline test.

For example – they remove Vitamin B6 from the medium and stimulate the cells to grow by mitogen stimulation. Growth is measured by DNA synthesis and the rate of growth is dependent only upon the functional level of Vitamin B6 available within the cells to support growth. For Vitamin B6 a growth rate of at least 55% of the growth rate observed in the optimal (100%) media is considered normal. Results less than 55% are considered to indicate a functional deficiency for Vitamin B6. Each nutrient has a different reference range that was established by assaying thousands of apparently healthy individuals.


What Does Spectracell Measure?

The Spectracell test measures cellular function based 34 different micronutrients. When they perform the test at the Spectracell lab they perform a baseline test where the white blood cells (T cells, specifically) are placed in a culture medium containing all of the nutrients they need to grow and function well.

Each of the following nutrients are evaluated:

B Complex Vitamins:

Amino Acids


  • Choline
  • Inositol
  • Carnitine

Fatty Acids

  • Oleic Acid

Other Vitamins


  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Magnesium

Carbohydrate Metabolism

  • Glucose-Insulin Interaction
  • Fructose Sensitivity
  • Chromium



  • Total Antioxidant Function

Proliferation Index

  • Immunidex

Breaking down the Spectracell report

The Spectracell report can be a little confusing and overwhelming. There is a lot of information there and understanding the results can be difficult.

  1. Test Result (% Control) – This column represents the patient’s growth response in the test media measured by DNA synthesis as compared to the optimal growth observed in the 100% media.
  2. Functional Abnormals – An interpretation is provided for those nutrients found to be deficient.
  3. Reference Range – This column represents how this patient’s result compares to thousands of patients previously tested. The patient’s result is considered deficient when it is less than the reference range.
  4. Graphs – The abnormal range of results is noted in the blue area. Abnormal results are indicated in red. The gray cross hatch area is a representation of the range of test results found in a random selection of subjects.

Spectrox Total Antioxidant Function

Spectrox is a measurement of overall antioxidant function. The patient’s cells are grown in the optimal media, stimulated to grow, and then increasing amounts of a free radical generating system (H2O2) are added. The cell’s ability to resist oxidative damage is determined. The increasing levels of peroxide will result in diminished growth rates in those patients with poor antioxidant function capacity.

The spectrox test is not measuring amounts of a given antioxidant. It is measuring your cells ability to detoxify the oxidative stress. Cells that are better able to defend against oxidation will have a higher score. You want your score to be high as it suggests optimal cellular function in regards to your ability to detoxify these oxidative free radicals.

Individual Antioxidant Levels

In the tests for individual antioxidants, it is determined which specific antioxidants may be deficient and thus affecting the Spectrox antioxidant function result. For these tests, the patient’s cells are preincubated (soaked in media containing high levels) with one of the nutrient antioxidants, i.e. selenium, and then the Spectrox test is repeated to determine if the addition of selenium improves the patient’s antioxidant function. This process is repeated for each individual antioxidant.