Skip to Content

Contaminant in Blood Thinner Identified

Research team led by MIT professor.
April 28, 2008

An international team of researchers has identified the contaminant in a blood thinner called heparin that is thought to be responsible for the deaths of dozens of Americans.

The contaminant, known as oversulfated chondroitin sulfate (OSCS), could not be picked up using traditional tests, as its structure is very similar to that of heparin. The researchers found that OSCS causes two critical problems: low blood pressure and anaphylactic reactions. Their findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week.

From the NEJM:

In January 2008, health authorities in the United States beganreceiving reports of clusters of acute hypersensitivity reactionsin patients undergoing dialysis that had been occurring sinceNovember 2007. Symptoms included hypotension, facial swelling,tachycardia, urticaria, and nausea. Although initial investigationsfocused on dialysis equipment, an investigation by the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention identified the receipt ofheparin sodium for injection (1000 U per milliliter, in 10-mland 30-ml multidose vials), manufactured by Baxter Healthcare,as a common feature of the cases.1 This finding led Baxter Healthcareto recall, on January 17, 2008, nine lots of heparin sodiumfor injection. As of April 13, 2008, there were 81 reports ofdeath that involved at least one sign or symptom of an allergicreaction or hypotension in patients receiving heparin sinceJanuary 1, 2007.

Ram Sasisekharan, a professor of biological engineering at MIT and the lead researcher on the project, says that the key to the team’s approach was that it looked at heparin and the contaminant at a molecular level. Strong teamwork, he notes, was also important to the project. “A number of academic and industrial labs worked with me in close collaboration with the FDA. It was only through cooperation that we were able to accomplish this task of identifying the contaminant and assessing its biological activity in such a rapid fashion.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.