Autofluorescence (AF) of crude serum was investigated with reference to the potential of its intrinsic AF biomarkers for the noninvasive diagnosis of liver injury. Spectral parameters of pure compounds representing retinol (vitamin A) and fluorescing free fatty acids were characterized by spectrofluorometry, to assess spectral parameters for the subsequent AF analysis of serum, collected from rats undergoing liver ischemia/reperfusion (I/R). Differences in AF spectral profiles detected between control and I/R were due to the increase in the AF components representing fatty acids in I/R serum samples. No significant changes occurred for retinol levels, consistently with the literature reporting that constant retinol levels are commonly observed in the blood, except for malnutrition or chronic severe liver disease. Conversely, fatty acids, in particular arachidonic and linoleic acid and their derivatives, act as modulating agents in inflammation, representing both a protective and damaging response to stress stimuli. The biometabolic and pathophysiological meaning of serum components and the possibility of their direct detection by AF spectrofluorometry open up interesting perspectives for the development of AF serum analysis, as a direct, cost effective, supportive tool to assess liver injury and related systemic metabolic alterations, for applications in experimental biomedicine and foreseen translation to the clinics.
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