Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Collaborating Institutions Announce Major Heparin Breakthrough
ALBANY, NY. – October 28, 2011 – Researchers at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of North Carolina and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, have made a significant advancement in the development of a form of the popular blood thinner heparin.
In a paper published in the October 28 issue of Science, Shaker A. Mousa, Vice Provost of Research at ACPHS, and Majde Takieddin, Research Scientist at ACPHS’s Pharmaceutical Research Institute, are among the authors who outline a new process to manufacture anticoagulant ultra-low molecular weight heparin.
Heparin comes in three forms, each with its own characteristics:
- > Standard Heparin – The standard form of heparin successfully inhibits many of the coagulation factors that can lead to blood clotting, but it can only be administered intravenously in a hospital and requires regular monitoring.
> Low molecular weight heparin (LMWH) – LMWH effectively inhibits two coagulation factors, but unlike standard heparin, LMWH can be administered with a syringe by the patient, and therefore does not necessitate a hospital visit. It also does not require monitoring and results in less bleeding than heparin, though the cost of LMWH is more than that of standard heparin. Brand names for LMWH include Lovenox, Fragmin, and Innohep.
> Ultra-low molecular weight heparin (U-LMWH) – The smallest of the three heparin molecules, ULWMH only inhibits one coagulation factor, but it is highly effective and safe. Like LMWH, it can be injected with a syringe by the patient, and in most cases, it need only be administered once a day. In addition, patients using U-LMWH have less bleeding than patients using LMWH. U-LMWH is, however, the most expensive of the three heparins. The most common brand name for U-LMWH is Arixtra.
U-LMWH has another key advantage over the other two forms of heparin. Patients using traditional heparin and LMWH are at risk of developing a disorder called Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia (HIT). HIT can cause an expansion of existing blood clots and the development of new clots, which could lead to a loss of blood supply to the extremities, and potentially, amputation. With standard heparin, the risk of HIT is approximately 3-10%; with LMWH, the estimated risk is 1-3%. There is minimal to no risk of HIT from U-LMWH.
In the article in Science
, titled, “Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of Homogeneous Ultralow Molecular Weight Heparins,” researchers describe a new 10-12 step process to make ultra-low molecular weight heparin that leverages biotechnology in place of traditional chemistry. This approach is substantially more efficient than the 17 step chemistry-intensive process used currently and results in a higher yield of the final product. It is also less labor intensive and less costly than the present method.
Mousa and Takieddin, along with the technical staff and post-doctoral fellows at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Pharmaceutical Research Institute, played a key role in the discovery by testing the U-LMWH compound produced by this new process. By confirming that the new compound is bio-equivalent to the current U-LMWH available on the market (Arixtra), they provided the assurance needed to validate the work and pave the way for future advances in the prevention and treatment of conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
“The development of a more efficient method for producing U-LMWH could help lower the cost of the medication, making it more accessible to more patients. As a result, we could see a decrease in the number of people who suffer from HIT, and an increase in the number who can enjoy the other benefits associated with U-LMWH,” said Dr. Mousa. About Science Science
is considered to be the world's leading outlet for scientific news, commentary, and cutting-edge research, with the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general-science journal. Through its print and online incarnations, Science
reaches an estimated worldwide readership of more than one million. Of the more than 12,000 scientific manuscripts that the journal sees each year, less than 8% are accepted for publication. About Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Founded in 1881, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a private, independent institution committed to graduating the best health care minds in the world. The College possesses all of the qualities for an outstanding education, including diverse academic programs, modern facilities, and distinguished faculty. In addition to its doctor of pharmacy program, ACPHS offers four bachelor’s programs and six graduate programs in the health sciences. The College’s main campus is located in Albany, New York; its satellite campus is in Colchester, Vermont. For more information, please visit www.acphs.edu.