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Nanoscience may hold key to surgical recovery

Posted on 26 April 2011

New nano-systems developed in York may eventually help patients recover from surgery without the danger of allergic reactions to drugs.

Researchers from the University of York’s Department of Chemistry have developed synthetic molecules capable of binding the chemical drug heparin, which they believe may provide an alternative to protamine.

We hope that this approach may eventually yield biocompatible and degradable heparin binders which will help surgical recovery without any of the side effects which can be caused by protamine

Professor Dave Smith

During surgery patients are given heparin to thin the blood and prevent clotting. However, once surgery is finished, it is essential to remove the heparin and allow clotting so the patient can recover. Currently this is done with the drug protamine, a natural product extracted from shellfish which can cause serious side effects in some patients.

The synthetic molecules created in York are designed to self-assemble into nanometre-sized structures with similar dimensions to protamine and containing multiple heparin binding units.

The results of the early stage study, published in Angewandte Chemie, show that the new nano-systems are capable of binding heparin just as effectively as protamine.

Professor Dave Smith, from the Department of Chemistry, said: “Clearly there is lots of fundamental work still to be done before clinical application. However, we hope that this approach may eventually yield biocompatible and degradable heparin binders which will help surgical recovery without any of the side effects which can be caused by protamine.”

Notes to editors:

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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