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Clin Chem. 2009 May;55(5):1011-8. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2008.118380. Epub 2009 Mar 26.

Toward standardization of insulin immunoassays.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA.



Measurement of circulating insulin may improve the classification and management of diabetes mellitus and assist in treating people with insulin resistance.


A work group convened by the American Diabetes Association evaluated results for a panel of 39 single donor sera measured by 10 commercial insulin methods from 9 manufacturers against an isotope dilution-liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (IDMS) measurement procedure calibrated using purified recombinant insulin. We used a candidate primary (pure substance) reference material, pooled serum, and single donor sera to evaluate approaches to achieve improved agreement of results between the routine and reference measurement procedures.


Four of 10 methods had >or=95% of individual serum results within 32% of the IDMS concentrations. However, the bias vs IDMS was more than 15.5% for 7 of 10 methods in 36%-100% of individual samples. A purified recombinant insulin preparation used as a common calibrator did not improve harmonization of results among routine methods but was not used as instructed by all participants. Calibration using serum pools achieved bias <15.5% for nearly all results in the concentration range covered by the pools (>60 pmol/L). Calibration using a panel of individual sera was the most effective to improve harmonization of results over the full measuring range.


Agreement among methods can be improved by establishing traceability to the IDMS procedure using a panel of native sera. Pooled sera may be useful as trueness control materials. The usefulness of the pure insulin primary reference material [candidate reference material for insulin (cRMI)] requires clarification of protocols used by manufacturers.

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