Heparin is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan used commonly in hydrophilic coatings because it is anti-thrombogenic. This means some forms of heparin can actively interfere with thrombin's reaction with fibrinogen, which winds up inhibiting the formation of fibrin, the main ingredient in thrombus, or blood clot. The heparin molecule also makes for a pretty slippery surface when coated onto things. For this reason, heparin has been used as a hydrophilic coating in medical devices for nearly three decades.
Recently, I was in a meeting with a client that makes heparin-coated catheters, among other things, and I suggested to him that I could whip up a surface that has a combination of heparin and hyaluronic acid (HA). I did not really have a reason for the suggestion. It was more a brainstorm, thinking out loud, and I was portraying it as something I could do with my company's technology platform. The answer I got was surprising. He wasn't interested, but not because of the HA. He wanted to get rid of heparin!
When I pressed him for a reason, he mentioned that heparin is recently known to be a risk factor for infections when used in conjunction with in-dwelling catheters. Apparently, it is conducive to the growth of certain types of bacteria. So, I fired up PubMed and did a 5-minute search to see what this guy was talking about, and sure enough, I found articles like this one on the risk factors of systemic heparin usage
. Granted, even according to that article, heparin was only a single factor, and not a main cause of infection, but I was still surprised to find that out, not being an expert in that literature.
Just thought I would pass it on....