Salmon skin is an aid in medical care

Salmon skin may be a new alternative source for extracting high quality heparin with high traceability. This was illustrated by SP in a research commission for the Norwegian company Hepmarin AS, which may have found a new export opportunity.

Heparin is an important raw material for pharmaceutical products. It is used, for example, as coating in medical equipment for preventing blood coagulation. In order to safeguard the quality of heparin, it is essential that the source can be traced through the entire refinement process.
Heparin is currently extracted from the intestines of pigs, which are a cheap, high-producing source. The extraction mainly takes place in small factories in China with limited documentation about the supporting material and thereby low traceability. Consequently, cases of serious side-effects have been reported, for example, due to impurities in the heparin.

There is thus large demand from manufacturers of medicine and medical equipment for alternative sources for the extraction of highly-active heparin, with a lower level of impurities and safer documentation.

SP's researchers were commissioned by Hepmarin AS to search for heparin in the intestines of farmed salmon, which fulfils all requirements for traceability and purity as it is documented from brood to slaughter. However, only low levels were found in the intestines. Instead it was revealed that the skin is a better source.

Owing to the conclusions of the research, Hepmarin AS can now optimise and automate the isolation process of heparin with a focus on the skin of the fish, while the search for more alternative sources with even higher exchange of heparin continues. 

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