, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 187–196

Direct Microwave Transesterification of Fingertip Prick Blood Samples for Fatty Acid Determinations

  • Jeff M. Armstrong
  • Adam H. Metherel
  • Ken D. Stark


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) dietary intakes and tissue levels are positively associated with various health benefits. The development of cost efficient, high throughput methodologies would enable research in large clinical and population studies, and clinical fatty acid profiling. Microwave heating for the transesterification of blood fatty acids was examined. Samples were collected by venous puncture and fingertip prick onto chromatography paper. Aliquots of serum, plasma, erythrocytes and whole blood were prepared from venous blood. Boron trifluoride in methanol was used for transesterification but sample preparation and heating varied. Fatty acid determinations and markers of omega-3 fatty acid status including the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, the ratio of total n-3 PUFA to n-6 PUFA, and the percentage of n-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA, ≥20 carbons and ≥3 carbon–carbon double bonds) in total HUFA were compared. Quantitative determinations indicate that microwave transesterification results in significantly lower estimates of monounsaturates and polyunsaturates, possibly through incomplete transesterification of triacylglycerols. However, qualitative estimates of omega-3 fatty acid status were relatively similar. Fingertip prick blood collection combined with direct transesterification by microwave may be a very rapid method to estimate omega-3 fatty acid status for selected applications.


Plasma Erythrocytes Whole blood Fingertip Omega-3 fatty acid EPA DHA HUFA 



Boron trifluoride in methanol


Butylated hydroxytoluene


Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)


Dimethyl acetal


Ethylene diaminetetraacetic acid


Eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3)


Fatty acid methyl ester


Highly unsaturated fatty acids


Polyunsaturated fatty acid


Thin layer chromatography

17:0 PC


17:0 TG


Supplementary material

11745_2007_3141_MOESM1_ESM.doc (114 kb)
(DOC 114 kb)


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Copyright information

© AOCS 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff M. Armstrong
    • 1
  • Adam H. Metherel
    • 1
  • Ken D. Stark
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Kinesiology, Laboratory of Nutritional and Nutraceutical ResearchUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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