Chemists report new approach to synthetic fragments of medically important Heparin

ATHENS, Ga. -- Chemists at the University of Georgia have developed a new method of synthesizing the principal constituent units of Heparin, a widely used anti-coagulant that is thought to be involved in numerous biological processes with proteins.

Since Heparin (or its components) is involved with coagulation, growth factor activation and cell adhesion, the research could lead to novel ways to fight disease or improve human health.

Part of the research results were announced this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Association in Washington, D.C.

"We have been able to assemble six precursors of the 19 known disaccharides that make up Heparin. These precursors can be used either as donors or acceptors in assembling larger Heparin structures," said chemist Geert-Jan Boons of the University of Georgia's department of chemistry and the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. "We are not the first to synthesize Heparin fragments, but we are the first to do it using this building-block approach. Our approach is unique in the sense that it can quickly give a vast array fragments."

Colleagues in the research at the University of Georgia are doctoral student Michael Haller and post-doctoral associate Hailong Jiao.

Heparin is a natural polysaccharide that has been used as a medical anti-coagulant for more than half a century. It is isolated commercially from beef lung and pork intestinal mucosa and was discovered some 80 years ago. Worldwide sales of Heparin are well over $2 billion a year. It must be delivered intravenously, though an oral version is in development. Heparin is extremely effective in preventing blood clots following surgery.

Heparin's value is not limited to its anti-coagulant properties, however. There's mounting evidence that Heparin is involved in a dazzling array of biological processes, making the determination of its structure-function relationships a prime target of science. As the Human Genome Project nears

Contact: Gert-Jan Boons
University of Georgia

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