Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deadly dose: Rensselaer heparin expert helps uncover source of lethal contamination

29.04.2008
The mysterious death of patients around the world following a routine dosage of the common blood thinner, heparin, sent researchers on a frantic search to uncover what could make the standard drug so toxic. A researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was among a small group of scientists with the expertise and the high-tech equipment necessary to determine the source of the contamination.

Robert J. Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. '59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer, is part of an international team that recently announced it had uncovered the source of the deadly contamination. On April 23, the team led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), described the source in the journal Nature Biotechnology -- a complex carbohydrate named oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, which has a structure so similar to heparin it was nearly undetectable to less advanced technology.

"Days after the deaths were first linked to heparin, we had the drugs in our hands from the FDA and our nuclear magnetic resonator (NMR) was set into motion to break down the structure of the drug and determine what could possibly be the source of the contamination," Linhardt said. "Now that we know the most likely source of the contamination, we are developing much stronger monitoring systems to ensure that this type of contamination is detected before it reaches patients."

Although extremely close in chemical structure to heparin, the contaminant caused severe allergic reaction in many patients who were receiving routine treatment for kidney dialysis, heart surgery, and other common medical issues. The researchers' extremely detailed structural analysis of the drug, using technology such as the NMR, was able to detect the minute differences between the contaminated drug and a normal dosage of heparin. And while Linhardt and others are developing more sophisticated detection systems, Linhardt also is helping lead the race for a safer, man-made alternative to the traditional biologic heparin. Biological heparin is currently developed by purifying the scrapings of pig and cow intestines.

"This contamination is unfortunately a sign that the way we currently manufacture heparin is simply unsafe," he said. "Because we rely on animals, we open ourselves up for spreading prions and diseases like mad cow disease through these animals. And because most of the raw material is imported, we often can't be sure of exactly what we are getting."

Linhardt is helping lead the global race to develop a synthetic alternative to heparin that could help eliminate the potential for contamination and adverse affects of biologic heparin. His lab developed the first fully synthetic heparin in amounts large enough for human dosage in 2005, and he continues to work to get the product further tested and commercialized.

"A synthetic heparin is built using sugars and enzymes found in the human body," Linhardt said of his recipe for synthetic heparin. "So instead of taking pig intestines and trying to purify it over and over again to reduce it down to just heparin, we are building heparin from scratch with no foreign material present. This method ensures that we know exactly what is in the drug and have complete control over its ingredients."

The research published in Nature Biotechnology was led by Ram Sasisekharan at MIT and involved a multidisciplinary and global team of researchers, including scientists and engineers from the FDA, Momenta Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, Mass., and the Istituto di Ricerche Chimiche e Biochimiche of Milan, Italy.

Linhardt and his team of researchers at Rensselaer, which includes postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students, used the sophisticated NMR and other technologies in the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) to help uncover the source of the contamination.

About Rensselaer

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. The university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

About the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

Ranked among the world's most advanced research facilities, the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies provides a state-of-the-art platform for collaborative research. At the Center, faculty and students in diverse academic and research disciplines are crossing the divide between the life sciences and engineering to encourage discovery and innovation. Four biotechnology research constellations - biocatalysis and metabolic engineering, functional tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, biocomputation and bioinformatics, and integrative systems biology - engage a multidisciplinary mix of faculty and students to help create new technologies that will save and improve the lives of people around the world.

Gabrielle DeMarco | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rpi.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Discovery shows promise for treating Huntington's Disease
05.08.2020 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Carbon monoxide improves endurance performance
05.08.2020 | Universität Bayreuth

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: ScanCut project completed: laser cutting enables more intricate plug connector designs

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have come up with a striking new addition to contact stamping technologies in the ERDF research project ScanCut. In collaboration with industry partners from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Aachen-based team of researchers developed a hybrid manufacturing process for the laser cutting of thin-walled metal strips. This new process makes it possible to fabricate even the tiniest details of contact parts in an eco-friendly, high-precision and efficient manner.

Plug connectors are tiny and, at first glance, unremarkable – yet modern vehicles would be unable to function without them. Several thousand plug connectors...

Im Focus: New Strategy Against Osteoporosis

An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

Osteoporosis is the most common age-related bone disease which affects hundreds of millions of individuals worldwide. It is estimated that one in three women...

Im Focus: AI & single-cell genomics

New software predicts cell fate

Traditional single-cell sequencing methods help to reveal insights about cellular differences and functions - but they do this with static snapshots only...

Im Focus: TU Graz Researchers synthesize nanoparticles tailored for special applications

“Core-shell” clusters pave the way for new efficient nanomaterials that make catalysts, magnetic and laser sensors or measuring devices for detecting electromagnetic radiation more efficient.

Whether in innovative high-tech materials, more powerful computer chips, pharmaceuticals or in the field of renewable energies, nanoparticles – smallest...

Im Focus: Tailored light inspired by nature

An international research team with Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Münster develop for the first time light fields using caustics that do not change during propagation. With the new method, the physicists cleverly exploit light structures that can be seen in rainbows or when light is transmitted through drinking glasses.

Modern applications as high resolution microsopy or micro- or nanoscale material processing require customized laser beams that do not change during...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2020”: The final touches for surfaces

23.07.2020 | Event News

Conference radar for cybersecurity

21.07.2020 | Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rare Earth Elements in Norwegian Fjords?

06.08.2020 | Earth Sciences

Anode material for safe batteries with a long cycle life

06.08.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Turning carbon dioxide into liquid fuel

06.08.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>