The blood-thinning drug heparin is highly effective when used to prevent and treat blood clots in veins, arteries, and lungs, but contaminated heparin products recently caused serious allergic reactions that led to many deaths. Now, University of Michigan researchers have demonstrated a simple, inexpensive method for detecting contaminants in heparin that relies on potentiometric polyanion sensors originally developed in the lab of researcher Mark Meyerhoff for detecting heparin in blood.
The disposable sensors can also be used to distinguish pure heparin from heparin that is tainted with small quantities of oversulfated chondroitin sulfate (OSCS), the culprit in the recent deaths. The new method is simpler and less expensive than analytical methods such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and capillary electrophoresis (CE), which have been suggested for detection of OSCS contaminants. The procedure could be used on site in drug manufacturing plants to screen raw materials or finalized, biomedical-grade heparin products for contaminants.