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Clin Chem. 2011 Apr;57(4):614-22. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2010.158766. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

Proposed serum cholesterol reference measurement procedure by gas chromatography-isotope dilution mass spectrometry.

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  • 1Clinical Chemistry Branch, Division of Laboratory Sciences, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.



Our purpose was to establish a mass spectrometry reference measurement procedure (RMP) for cholesterol to use in the CDC's standardization programs. We explored a gas chromatography-isotope dilution mass spectrometry (GC-IDMS) procedure using a multilevel standard calibration curve to quantify samples with varying cholesterol concentrations.


We calibrated the mass spectrometry instrument by isotope dilution with a pure primary standard reference material and an isotopically enriched cholesterol analog as the internal standard (IS). We diluted the serum samples with Tris-HCl buffer (pH 7.4, 0.05 mol/L, 0.25% Triton X-100) before analysis. We used 17 serum pools, 10 native samples, and 2 standard reference materials (SRMs). We compared the GC-IDMS measurements with the CDC's modified Abell-Levy-Brodie-Kendall (AK) RMP measurements and assessed method accuracy by analyzing 2 SRMs. We evaluated the procedure for lack of interference by analyzing serum spiked with a mixture of 7 sterols.


The mean percent bias between the AK and the GC-IDMS RMP was 1.6% for all samples examined. The mean percent bias from NIST's RMP was 0.5% for the SRMs. The total %CVs for SRM 1951b levels I and II were 0.61 and 0.73%, respectively. We found that none of the sterols investigated interfered with the cholesterol measurement.


The low imprecision, linear response, lack of interferences, and acceptable bias vs the NIST primary RMP qualifies this procedure as an RMP for determining serum cholesterol. The CDC will adopt and implement this GC-IDMS procedure for cholesterol standardization.

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