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Heparin: role in protein purification and substitution with animal-component free material.Heparin is a highly sulfated polysaccharide which belongs to the family of glycosaminoglycans. It is involved in various important biological activities. The major biological purpose is the inhibition of the coagulation cascade to maintain the blood flow in the vasculature. These properties are employed in several therapeutic drugs. Heparin's activities are associated with its interaction to various proteins. To date, the structural heparin-protein interactions are not completely understood. This review gives a general overview of specific patterns and functional groups which are involved in the heparin-protein binding. An understanding of the heparin-protein interactions at the molecular level is not only advantageous in the therapeutic application but also in biotechnological application of heparin for downstreaming. This review focuses on the heparin affinity chromatography. Diverse recombinant proteins can be successfully purified by this method. While effective, it is disadvantageous that heparin is an animal-derived material. Animal-based components carry the risk of contamination. Therefore, they are liable to strict quality controls and the validation of effective good manufacturing practice (GMP) implementation. Hence, adequate alternatives to animal-derived components are needed. This review examines strategies to avoid these disadvantages. Thereby, alternatives for the provision of heparin such as chemical synthesized heparin, chemoenzymatic heparin, and bioengineered heparin are discussed. Moreover, the usage of other chromatographic systems mimetic the heparin effect is reviewed.