The production of clinical dextran using membrane processes

  • Andrew Till

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Clinical dextran is used as a blood volume expander. The British Pharmacopeia (BP) specification for this product requires the amount of dextran below 12,000 MW and above 98,000 MW to be strictly controlled. Dextran is presently fractionated industrially using ethanol precipitation.
The aim of this work was to develop an ultrafiltration system which could replace the present industrial process. Initially these molecular weight (MW) bands were removed using batch ultrafiltration. A large number of membranes were tested. The correct BP specification could be achieved using these membranes but there was a significant loss of saleable material. To overcome this problem a four stage ultrafiltration cascade (UFC) was used. This work is the first known example of a UFC being used to remove both the high and low MW dextran. To remove the high MW material it was necessary to remove 90% of the MW distribution and retain the remaining 10%.
The UFC significantly reduced the amount of dialysate required. To achieve the correct specification below 12,000 MW, the UFC required only 2.5 - 3.0 diavolumes while the batch system required 6 - 7. The UFC also improved the efficiency of the fractionation process. The UFC could retain up to 96% of the high MW material while the batch system could only retain 82.5% using the same number of diavolumes. On average the UFC efficiency was approximately 10% better than the equivalent batch system.
The UFC was found to be more predictable than the industrial process and the specification of the final product was easier to control.
The UFC can be used to improve the fractionation of any polymer and also has several other potential uses including enzyme purification.
A dextransucrase bioreactor was also developed. This preliminary investigation highlighted the problems involved with the development of a successful bioreactor for this enzyme system.
Date of AwardOct 1988
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPhilip E. Barker (Supervisor)


  • dextran
  • ultrafiltration
  • cascading
  • bioreactor
  • dextransucrase

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