SCIENTISTS are a step closer to understanding and synthetically producing heparin, the life-saving drug that stops blood clots forming after major operations.
Researchers, led by Robin Carrell of Cambridge University's department of haematology, have discovered the molecular structure of the part of the herapin molecule responsible for its anti-clotting properties. The structure shows how this part of the molecule binds to, and activates, anti-thrombin the natural anti-clotting protein present in the blood. The research creates the possibility of producing synthetic oral replacements. Currently animal-derived heparin has to be injected and can only be used for short periods as it contains a mixture of agents which interact with other blood components causing side effects.