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Duke researchers working on heparin alternative

July 31, 2014

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Duke researchers are working to create heparin substitutes that could be used in open-heart procedures that require the use of heart-lung bypass machines.

Heparin has been a lifesaver for nearly 100 years. It is used to prevent and treat blood clots from forming during surgeries, dialysis and transfusions.

But the drug has a tendency to trigger allergic reactions and cause severe bleeding in some patients, so alternatives to heparin have been developed for many uses, but not for open-heart surgeries.

Now Duke University School of Medicine researchers are working to create heparin substitutes that could be used in open-heart procedures that require the use of heart-lung bypass machines.

In research published in the August issue of Chemistry & Biology, Bruce Sullenger, PhD,  and his colleagues describe a promising alternative to heparin. The combination of chemicals they have developed appears to effectively keep blood from clotting when it is exposed to a foreign surface.

That’s only half the challenge. Any new drug’s anti-clotting power would need to be turned off quickly to prevent people from experiencing uncontrolled bleeding, so an antidote must be developed along with the heparin alternative.

Sullenger said the new chemical combination has a ready antidote, making it a strong candidate for clinical trials.

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