Clinical use of albumin

Large amounts of human serum albumin are used clinically in the treatment of burns, shock and blood loss. It is also present in pharmaceutical preparations, such as drug formulations and vaccines, and in cell culture media. At present, the only, or main, source of human serum albumin for these applications is donated human blood. Therefore, the risk of transmitting pathogenic viruses, such as those causing hepatitis, HIV and as yet unidentified diseases, exists. To meet the demand of albumin, and for avoiding the risk of the presence of pathogenic viruses, large-scale production of recombinant human serum albumin using yeast, bacteria or plant-based expression systems is on its way.

Other biotechnological approaches include exploiting albumin’s long circulatory half-life to enhance the pharmacokinetics and bio-distribution of drugs, therapeutic proteins and nucleic acids. These molecules are either bound to or fused with albumin. Similarly, albumin nanoparticles that possess the ability not only to transport small molecules but also to enable the controlled release of their bound cargo are currently being developed for in vivo use.

Several of the aspects just mentioned have been dealt with in greater detail in some of the publications mentioned in BOOKS, SPECIAL ISSUE AND REVIEWS.

For news concerning the clinical use of albumin we can also refer you to the website of the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association: www.pptaglobal.org