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Glycobiology Insights

Challenges for Heparin Production: Artificial Synthesis or Alternative Natural Sources?

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Glycobiology Insights 2012:3 1-6

Letter to Editor

Published on 16 May 2012

DOI: 10.4137/GBI.S9705


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Abstract

The commentary emphasizes the immediate necessity to find alternative sources for the production of pharmaceutical heparin to meet the ton-amount world's demand of the glycosaminoglycan. The recent development of a synthetic approach brings considerable new technical and scientifically relevant knowledge to the field, with a strong potential for application in the future. However, the artificial approach does not offer a rapid alternative for the current world crisis affecting the production of heparin, which has to respond to an increasing worldwide demand. It is important to call attention for the availability of marine organisms that are rich sources of heparin analogs with significant anticoagulant activity, low bleeding effect that have been cultivated in very large amounts for years in different parts of the world. Additionally, alternative sources of mammalian heparin, such as bovine intestine and lung have been continually used in countries from South America, Africa and Asia, since the outbreak of the BSE without any report of prion contamination in humans. Recently, it has been shown that bovine and porcine intestinal heparins are composed by different proportions of a mixture of the same fractions that can be simply separated by anion exchange chromatography. In other words, high quality porcine heparin can be obtained from bovine tissue. We believe that alternative animal sources of heparin are currently a more realistic solution than artificial heparin to respond to the increasing demand for heparin.



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