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Biomolecular Anticoagulant Platform Could Revolutionize Heart Surgery

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Jul 2022
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Image: New anticoagulant platform offers hope for advances for heart surgery, dialysis, other procedures (Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte)
Image: New anticoagulant platform offers hope for advances for heart surgery, dialysis, other procedures (Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte)

Blood clotting is important to prevent blood loss and for immunity, although coagulation also can cause health issues and even death. Currently, one in four people worldwide dies from diseases and conditions caused by blood clots. Meanwhile, anticoagulants used to reduce risks can also cause significant issues, such as uncontrolled bleeding. Now, a new biomolecular anticoagulant platform holds promise as a revolutionary advancement over the blood thinners currently used during surgeries and other procedures.

The technology invented by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, NC, USA) turns to programmable RNA-DNA anticoagulant fibers that, when injected into the bloodstream, form into modular structures that communicate with thrombin, which are the enzymes in blood plasma that cause blood to clot. The technology allows the structures to prevent blood clotting as it is needed, then be swiftly eliminated from the body by the renal system once the work is done. The fiber structures use aptamers, short sequences of DNA or RNA designed to specifically bind and inactivate thrombin.

The extended circulation in the bloodstream allows for a single injection, instead of multiple doses. The design also decreases the concentration of anticoagulants in the blood, resulting in less stress on the body’s renal and other systems, according to the researchers. This technology also introduces a novel “kill-switch” mechanism. A second injection reverses the fiber structure’s anticoagulant function, allowing the fibers to metabolize into materials that are tiny, harmless, inactive and easily excreted by the renal system. The entire process takes place outside the cell, through extracellular communication with the thrombin. The researchers note that this is important as immunological reactions do not appear to occur, based on their extensive studies.

The team has tested and validated the platform using computer models, human blood and various animal models. The technology may provide a foundation for other biomedical applications that require communication via the extracellular environment in patients, according to the researchers. The technique permits the design of structures of any shape desired, with the kill switch mechanism intact. While the application is sophisticated, production of the structures is relatively easy. The researchers’ work so far has relevance for short-term applications, such as in surgeries, although the team hopes to possibly extend their research into maintenance situations, such as with medications that patients with heart conditions take.

“We envision the uses of our new anticoagulant platform would be during coronary artery bypass surgeries, kidney dialysis, and a variety of vascular, surgical and coronary interventions,” said UNC Charlotte researcher Kirill Afonin who led the research team. “We are now investigating if there are potential future applications with cancer treatments to prevent metastasis and also in addressing the needs of malaria, which can cause coagulation issues.”

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