Hirudin is the most potent and specific known inhibitor of thrombin, the enzyme that plays a key regulatory function in hemostasis and blood coagulation. The importance of thrombosis in cardiovascular disease has recently highlighted the limitations of existing antithrombotic drugs and the potential value of direct thrombin inhibition as an effective approach to antithrombotic therapy. Hirudin and a small peptidomimetic analog—hirulog—are being developed as alternatives to heparin for the treatment of unstable angina, for prevention of abrupt closure and restenosis following coronary angioplasty, for prevention of deep vein thrombosis after major orthopedic surgery, and as an adjunct to fibrinolytic therapy. Direct thrombin inhibitors have several potential advantages over heparin: They can inhibit thrombin bound to clots or extracellular matrices, which are relatively resistant to heparin; they do not require antithrombin III as a cofactor, which may lead to a more predictable dose response; and they are not inhibited by activated platelets, which release platelet factor 4 and other molecules that neutralize heparin. The results of early clinical studies suggest that hirudin and hirulog may be more efficacious and more predictable and may have fewer bleeding complications than heparin for several clinical indications.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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