pK Chemicals produces Dextran in various molecular weights supported by the necessary quality assurance and documentation. Our Dextran product range is both available with standard specifications and according to customized specifications. Our products are manufactured in compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP).

At pK Chemicals we run the entire process right from the start to the final product, which is your security for a high-quality dextran product.

pK Chemicals manufactures two types of Dextran:

What is Dextran?

Dextran is a non-ionic branched polysaccharide, appearing as a white powder. Native dextran is prepared by fermentation of sugar, followed by subsequent harvest and purification. Native Dextran is then modified by hydrolysis and separation into the desired molecular weight. The molecular weight denotation of dextran is the molecular weight in Da divided by 1000. I.e. dextran 40 is dextran 40.000 Da (or 40 kDa). Typical denotations are: 1, 3, 5, 10, 40, 60, 70, 110, 150, 250, 500 and 750.


Dextran is manufactured by the fermentation of sucrose. The bacterium Leuconostoc mesenteroides is used for the fermentation process.The bacterium produces the enzyme dextransucrase, which can transfer a glucose molecule from sucrose and create a growing glucose chain.1


Dextran is a polysaccharide, and the main chain is formed by 1,6 glycosidic linkages. The side branches are primarily 1,3 linkages and the degree of branching is approximately 5%. The branches are mostly 1-2 glucose units long. The 1,6 glycosidic linkage is formed between a primary hydroxyl group and a secondary hydroxyl group. The much higher flexibility of the primary hydroxyl group is responsible for the high degree of flexibility of the dextran backbone as compared to e.g. cellulose. The flexibility of dextran is responsible for many of the highly desired properties of dextran.


Dextran is pH-neutral and highly water-soluble, up to 50 w/v. It forms clear and stable aqueous solutions, which can be filtered and even sterile filtered. Dextran is also soluble in solvents like methyl sulfide, formamide, ethylene glycol, and glycerol. Dextran fractions are insoluble in simple alcohols, such as methanol, ethanol and isopropanol and most ketones, such as acetone.


Dextran displays an excellent biocompatibility. It was originally developed by researchers at Pharmacia in Uppsala, Sweden, during the 1950s seeking to develop a blood plasma substitute.1

Dextran can be regarded as a green product in the sense that it is prepared from sucrose, which is a renewable source. The purification of dextran requires only water and ethanol.1


Due to is biocompatibility, biodegradability and low toxicity, Dextran has a wide application area within life science and the medical industry. The most famous is the application of dextran is probably its roll as plasma volume expander. Since dextran is also easy to conjugate it is also commonly used for e.g. drug delivery and as a vaccine adjuvant.


Read more about the various application of dextran below. Please contact us if you need more information.

Blood Volume Expander

Dextran is used as a plasma volume expander to treat decreased volume of circulating blood plasma, a condition referred to as hypovolemia. The dextran increases the blood volume, blood- and central venous pressure as well as the cardiac and urinary output. Dextran based plasma volume expanders have also been shown to reduce the blood viscosity and improve the peripheral blood flow.2

Organ Preservation

Dextran is a common ingredient in preservation solution prior to organ transplantation. Dextran have been shown to reduce the graft failure in both human and animals. Corneas’ and lungs are well known examples of organs that are commonly prepared and/or stored with dextran.3

Thrombosis prophylaxis

Dextran has been shown to inhibit clot formation and can thereby be used intravenously as a thrombosis prophylaxis. Thrombosis occurs when a clot forms inside a blood vessel and obstructs the blood flow through the circulation system.4

Eye care

Due to its lubrication properties, dextran is commonly used in various eye drops and eye lubricants for ophthalmic applications. The lubricating properties of dextran can be used to treat dry and irritated eyes. It can also be used a s a tear replacement.5


Cryopreservation is the process where biological materials, such as cells, tissue and organs are preserved at a very low temperature to preserve their viability.6 The preservation is typically performed at liquid nitrogen temperatures at −196 °C. Cryopreservation is often performed to preserve cells or organs prior transplantation, blood transfusion or in vitro fertilization.7 Dextran can be used as a cryoprotectant, a substance used to protect the biological material from freezing damage. Dextran has been shown to inhibit crystal formation during freeze drying, which reduces damage to cells membranes and organelles.8 Dextran is often used as cryoprotectant in combination with glycerol or DMSO.


Lyophilization, more commonly known as freeze-drying, is a method for preserving of e.g. small molecules, proteins, and vaccines. The process involves freezing of the product, lowering the pressure, and thereafter placing it under vacuum. This allows the ice to change directly from solid to vapour, commonly referred to as sublimation. Dextran is used during lyophilization as a stabilizer of proteins and enzymes.9

Drug delivery

Dextran can be used as a drug carrier to target the administration of the drug and to control its release. It can also reduce toxicity and side effects of the drug in the body. Another application area is chelation of metal ions. Dextran will form a stable and soluble compels with the metal ion, preventing the metals from reacting with other molecules.10

Pharmacopoeia Reference Standards

Compendial specifications exist for the following Dextran molecular weights in the European Pharmacopoeia - EP and the US pharmacopoeia - USP:

Dextran 1 EP and USP
Dextran 40 EP and USP
Dextran 60 EP
Dextran 70 EP and USP


  1. de Belder, A. N. Dextran Handbook. (Amersham Biosciences, 2003).
  2. Davies, J. W. L., Ricketts, C. R. & Williams, B. N. Plasma volume expansion by rapid infusion of a low molecular weight dextran. Br. J. Pharmacol. Chemother. 21, 220–225 (1963).
  3. Kelly, R. F. et al. Low potassium dextran lung preservation solution reduces reactive oxygen species production. Ann. Thorac. Surg. 75, 1705–1710 (2003).
  4. Pršić, A., Kiwanuka, E., Caterson, S. A. & Caterson, E. J. Anticoagulants and Statins As Pharmacological Agents in Free Flap Surgery: Current Rationale. Eplasty 15, (2015).
  5. Safarzadeh, M., Azizzadeh, P. & Akbarshahi, P. Comparison of the clinical efficacy of preserved and preservative-free hydroxypropyl methylcellulose-dextran-containing eyedrops. J. Optom. 10, 258–264 (2017).
  6. Jang, T. H. et al. Cryopreservation and its clinical applications. Integr. Med. Res. 6, 12–18 (2017).
  7. Han, Y.-J. et al. Stem Cells from Cryopreserved Human Dental Pulp Tissues Sequentially Differentiate into Definitive Endoderm and Hepatocyte-Like Cells in vitro. Int. J. Med. Sci. 14, 1418–1429 (2017).
  8. Dumoulin, J. C. M. et al. The protective effects of polymers in the cryopreservation of human and mouse zonae pellucidae and embryos. Fertil. Steril. 62, 793–798 (1994).
  9. Williams, N. A. & Polli, G. P. The Lyophilization of Pharmaceuticals: A Literature Review. PDA J. Pharm. Sci. Technol. 38, 48–60 (1984).
  10. Huang, S. & Huang, G. Preparation and drug delivery of dextran-drug complex. Drug Deliv. 26, 252–261 (2019).

Range of standardized Dextran products

Dextran 5



Dextran 750