1.Albumin is often administered intravenously to critically ill patients as a volume expander, to combat hypoalbuminaemia, and to decrease hyperbilirubinaemia. There is, however, an ongoing debate concerning the therapeutic benefit of the former which is an expensive form of treatment.
2.Albumin has several biological functions, in particular as a ligand binder. It also acts as an extracellular transition metal ion-binding and radical-scavenging antioxidant. These functions are influenced by the presence of an exposed thiol group (cys 34) on the surface of the albumin molecule.
3.The ability of infused albumin to influence the plasma thiol pool, and hence antioxidant potential, was investigated in patients with sepsis syndrome.
4.Plasma thiol levels rose rapidly after albumin infusion and remained elevated even after plasma albumin levels had declined significantly, due to interstitial leakage. Data are suggestive of some form of thiol exchange in the plasma of these patients between albumin and molecules containing oxidized thiol groups.
5.Administration of albumin to patients with sepsis syndrome leads to a sustained increase in plasma thiols. Thiols have several important antioxidant functions, and thiol repletion in these patients, who are known to suffer from oxidative stress, may have beneficial antioxidant effects. Antioxidant repletion may represent an important facet of clinically administered albumin.