Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered an alternative way to produce heparin, a drug commonly used to stop or prevent blood from clotting. The findings could enable the current supply of the drug – now extracted from animal tissue – to be replaced or supplemented by the synthetic version. The new process also can be applied as a tool for drug discovery, according to the researchers.
Heparin is a complex carbohydrate used to stop or prevent blood from clotting during medical procedures and treatments such as kidney dialysis, heart bypass surgery, stent implantation, indwelling catheters, knee and hip replacements, and deep vein thrombosis. The annual worldwide sales of heparin are estimated at $3 billion.
"We have synthetically prepared heparin in quantities large enough for use in human medical treatments by engineering recently discovered heparin biosynthetic enzymes," says Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. 59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "These discoveries will enable us to effectively replace a variable raw material – heparin derived from processed animal organs – with a synthetic material – synthetic heparin – and have the same therapeutic result."
Tiffany Lohwater | EurekAlert!
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