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Ann Med. 1996 Jun;28(3):241-53.

Serum hyaluronan as a disease marker.

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  • 1Department of Medical, University of Uppsala, Sweden.


Hyaluronan is a connective tissue polysaccharide which has also been found in blood serum in concentrations < 100 micrograms/L (average 30-40 micrograms/L in middle-aged persons). The serum level is regulated by the influx of the polysaccharide from the tissues via lymph and its receptor-mediated clearance by liver endothelial cells. Markedly high serum levels are noted in certain liver diseases, especially in patients with cirrhosis, when the clearance is impaired. In these cases serum hyaluronan can be used to follow the development of the disease. Serum hyaluronan is also a sensitive marker for impending rejection of liver transplants. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis constitute another major group with increased serum hyaluronan, but in this case the level varies markedly during the day corresponding to physical activity. There are good indications that in these subjects the excess hyaluronan comes from the joints. Under stringent sampling conditions of serum it should be possible to extract interesting information on the inflammatory joint process. Increased hyaluronan levels are also seen in other inflammatory diseases and it is of special interest that high hyaluronan levels in patients with septic conditions is a sign of poor prognosis. Certain tumours, notably Wilms' tumour and mesothelioma, produce factors which activate synthesis of hyaluronan and increase its serum level. Rare hereditary diseases with disturbances of hyaluronan metabolism and elevated blood levels have also been discovered, e.g. Werner's syndrome and cutaneous hyaluronanosis. Information accumulated during the last decade regarding the metabolism of hyaluronan has made this polysaccharide an interesting clinical marker for a number of pathological conditions.

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