Urinary Porphyrins:
A Non-invasive Assessment of Environmental Exposure

Heme is an iron-containing compound that forms the nonprotein part of hemoglobin and other biological molecules. although production is concentrated in the liver and bone marrow, heme is utilized in various capacities in virtually every tissue in the body. In most cells, heme is a key building block in the construction of factors that oversee metabolism and transport of oxygen and energy. In the liver, heme is a component of several vital enzymes, particularly cytochrome P450. Actual heme biosynthesis (see right) occurs partly in the mitochondria and partly in the cytoplasm. Porphyrias are a group of disorders caused by abnormalities in the enzymatic steps that lead to heme production. Porphyrias may be inherited or acquired with exposure to environmental toxicants.

Heme Biosynthesis Pathway
General Symptoms of Porphyria
extreme abdominal pain
blistering (photosensitivity)          
red or brown urine        
abnormal hair growth
skin hyperpigmentation
muscle pain

Most patients are asymptomatic prior to a significant environmental insult (dieting/fasting, alcohol, numerous medications such as sulfonamide ABs and barbituates, birth control pills, hepatitis C, stress, excess iron, environmental toxicants).
Doctor's Data Urine Porphyrins Profile
Urinary porphyrins are oxidized intermediate metabolites of heme biosynthesis. The high rate of heme production facilitates the use of urinary porphyrins as early and sensitive biomarkers of disorders in heme synthesis. Porphyrin levels increase when porphyrinogens accumulate as a result of inhibition of specific enzymes in the heme biosynthesis pathway. Patterns of urinary porphyrins are associated with genetic disorders, metabolic disturbances and diseases, anemias, oxidative stress, and high-level exposure to toxic chemicals or metals. This non-invasive test from Doctor's Data requires a single first morning void (FMV) or 24-hour urine collection. Click here for the Urine Porphyrins Test Collection Instructions.
Specific urine profiles are associated with high-level exposure to mercury, arsenic, lead and some chemicals and drugs. 
Experts in Porphyrin Testing
Research at Doctor's Data, Inc. has identified three separate precoproporphyrin peaks. Since knowledge about the mercury-associated precoproporphyrin entities is limited, we report the levels of all three peaks separately, as well as the total, for research use. Since uroporphyrin levels are not known to be affected by Hg, we also report the total precoproporphyrins-to-uroporphyrin ratio to increase the sensitivity for detecting abnormalities in individuals with low heme biosynthesis, as may occur in children with nutritional deficiencies or autism.
Urine Porphyrin Profile in Summary
  • Determination of Porphyrias
  • Assessment of chemical or heavy metals
  • No hepatotoxic challenge drugs required
  • Simple first morning void urine collection
Other Environmental Exposure and Detoxification Profiles
Plasma Methylation Profile
Hepatic Detox Profile
RBC Glutathione
DNA Oxidative Damage (8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine)
Want to see the latest research on this topic?

Besur S, Hou W, Schmeltzer P, Bonkovsky HL.  Clinically important features of porphyrin and heme metabolism and the porphyrias.  Metabolites. 2014 Nov 3;4(4):977-1006.

Tollånes MC, Aarsand AK, Sandberg S.   Excess risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with porphyria: a population-based cohort study.  J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Feb;34(1):217-23.

Heyer NJ, Echeverria D, Woods JS.  Disordered porphyrin metabolism: a potential biological marker for autism risk assessment.  Autism Res. 2012 Apr;5(2):84-92

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Doctor's Data, Inc. has provided innovative specialty testing to healthcare practitioners around the world from our advanced CLIA-licensed clinical laboratory since 1972.

A specialist and pioneer in essential and toxic elemental testing, the laboratory provides a wide array of functional testing to aid in decision making and better patient outcomes.  Choose DDI to help you assess and treat heavy metal burden, nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal function, cardiovascular risk, liver and metabolic abnormalities, and more. 

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