Heparin is an anticoagulant found naturally in the human (and other mammal) bodies. It was first isolated from dog liver (hence the name) by Jay Maclean in 1916, who was actually searching for a procoagulant rather than an anticoagulant.

It quickly replaced hirudin, the anticoagulant present in leech saliva as the anticoagulant of choice for humans.

Still in use today, heparin continues to play an important role in anticoagulation for various conditions including pulmonary embolus, myocardial infarction and others.

Heparin is commonly given either subcutaneously as prophylaxis against deep venous thrombosis for bedbound hospital inpatients and also intravenously for full anticoagulation for whatever reason.

Heparin is a polysaccharide which blocks the formation of blood clots (it acts as an anticoagulant) by attaching to and interfering with the action of the protein antiprothrombin III, which plays a crucial role in clotting. Heparin is composed of D-glucosamine-2,6-disulfate and D-glucuronic acid-2-sulfate. It is used to treat thrombosis, embolisms, and related conditions.

A study done in the late 1970s indicated that heparin is useful for preventing scarring due to localized burns. To the best of my knowledge, heparin is not used for this today. However, I can vouch for its effectiveness in at least one instance, because soon after my physician father read said article in a medical journal when I was a child, I seared my leg on a heater grate. He put some heparin on me and bandanged me up, and the wound healed perfectly.

Part this writeup is based on work I did for the science dictionary at http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/

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