Vitamin K plasma levels determination in human health
Vitamin K (phylloquinone or vitamin K1 and menaquinones or vitamin K2) plays an important role as a cofactor in the synthesis of hepatic blood coagulation proteins, but recently has also aroused an increasing interest for its action in extra-hepatic tissues, in particular in the regulation of bone and vascular metabolism. The accurate measurement of vitamin K status in humans is still a critical issue. Along with indirect assays, such as the undercarboxylated fractions of vitamin K-dependent proteins [prothrombin, osteocalcin (OC), and matrix gla protein], the direct analysis of blood levels of phylloquinone and menaquinones forms might be considered a more informative and direct method for assessing vitamin K status. Different methods for direct quantification of vitamin K serum levels are available. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methods coupled with post-column reduction procedures and fluorimetric or electrochemical detection are commonly used for food and blood analysis of phylloquinone, but they show some limitations when applied to the analysis of serum menaquinones because of interferences from triglycerides. Recent advancements include liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LCMS/MS) detection, which assures higher specificity. The optimization and standardization of these methods requires specialized laboratories. The variability of results observed in the available studies suggests the need for further investigations to obtain more accurate analytical results.