Measurement of trace elements in liver biopsy samples from cattle

W. Ouweltjes, A.C. de Zeeuw, A. Moen, G.H.M. Counotte

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Serum, plasma, or urine samples are usually used for the measurement of the trace elements copper, zinc, iron, selenium, because these samples are easy to obtain; however, these samples are not always appropriate. For example, it is not possible to measure molybdenum, the major antagonist of copper, in blood or urine. Therefore measurement of trace elements in liver tissue is considered the gold standard. For the assessment of selenium the method of choice remains determination of glutathion peroxidase in erythrocytes and for the assessment of magnesium determination of magnesium in urine. We determined the accuracy and repeatability of measuring trace elements in liver biopsies and whole liver homogenates. The levels of trace elements measured were similar in both preparations (92% agreement). Liver biopsy in live animals is a relatively simple procedure but not common in the Netherlands. Reference levels of trace elements, classified as too low, low, adequate, high, and too high, were established on the basis of our research and information in the literature. In a second study we investigated the practical aspects of obtaining liver tissue samples and their use. Samples were collected from cattle on a commercial dairy farm. Liver biopsy provided additional information to that obtained from serum and urine samples. We prepared a biopsy protocol and a test package, which we tested on 14 farms where an imbalance of trace minerals was suspected. Biopsy samples taken from 4 to 6 animals revealed extreme levels of trace elements
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-83
JournalTijdschrift voor Diergeneeskunde
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • urine analysis
  • diagnostic techniques
  • biopsy
  • diagnosis
  • trace elements
  • cattle
  • trace element deficiencies
  • animal nutrition
  • mineral nutrition
  • liver
  • mineral status
  • beef-cattle
  • copper
  • zinc
  • supplementation
  • manganese
  • calves
  • iron


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