The NMR spectroscopy technique that was developed by LipoScience (LipoScience, Inc., Raleigh, NC), exploits specific magnetic properties of lipoproteins. This technology does not require separation of lipoproteins; serum or plasma can be run through the NMR sensor probe and all lipoproteins can be measured directly and homogeneously.
The NMR platform works by subjecting the patient sample to a pulse of radio energy within a strong magnetic field. The energy that is given off by the lipids in the sample results is a signal that can be analyzed by the instrument to determine the number and size of lipoproteins present. Lipids associated with larger lipoproteins produce a signal that is distinct from those of smaller lipoproteins. A computer algorithm developed by LipoScience deconvolutes the signals into lipoprotein subclasses and then quantifies the number of particles in each class.
NMR provides a useful and novel way to quantitate lipoprotein particles. However it is currently a proprietary technology and NMR analyzers are not yet readily available for purchase and use in smaller clinical laboratories.
Although this method is novel and effective, NMR is expensive, large, and not always easy to operate and maintain (one drawback is that it requires liquid nitrogen). NMR is also a new type of instrumentation for the clinical laboratory. For these reasons adoption of this method has been slow. However the inventor of this technology has created smaller, more user-friendly NMR instruments that can easily fit into a clinical lab. It remains to be seen if this technology will catch on for the routine measurement of lipids.