Heparin, the widely used pharmaceutical anticoagulant, has been in clinical use for well over half a century. Its introduction reduced clotting risks substantially and subsequent developments, including the introduction of low-molecular-weight heparin, made possible many major surgical interventions that today make heparin an indispensable drug. There has been a recent burgeoning of interest in heparin and related glycosaminoglycan (GAG) polysaccharides, such as chondroitin sulfates, heparan sulfate, and hyaluronate, as potential agents in various applications. This ability arises mainly from the ability of GAGs to interact with, and alter the activity of, a wide range of proteins. Here, we review new developments (since 2010) in the application of heparin and related GAGs across diverse fields ranging from thrombosis and neurodegenerative disorders to microbiology and biotechnology.
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