In the purification process of hemoglobin (Hb) from red blood cells, we stabilized Hb as carbonylhemoglobin (HbCO) against pasteurization at 60°C. In this study, the process of carbonylation (HBO2 → HbCO) was tested with a membrane oxygenator (CX-II08; membrane area, 0.8m2; maximum circulation rate, 1.21/min) under the conditions of a solution flow rate of 100-1000 ml/min and a CO gas flow rate of 30-100 ml/min. Comparing the overall O2 transfer coefficient of carbonylation with that of deoxygenation (N2 flow) revealed that the resistance to O2 transfer of carbonylation was about 35 times smaller, indicating that carbonylation hindered O2 rebinding (deoxyHb → HbO2). On the other hand, the O2 released in the course of carbonylation hindered carbonylation at the beginning, because rebinding of O2 is competitive with carbonylation. The time required for carbonylation was significantly shortened from 1000 to 150s when the solution flow rate was increased from 50 to 400 ml/min; however, the CO gas flow rate did not affect it very much. Increasing the Hb concentration from 7.5 to 15 g/dl accelerated carbonylation by 1.3 times. Even though further study is necessary to select a suitable polymer membrane to avoid protein adsorption, a membrane oxygenator will be effective for the large-scale carbonylation of Hb as a starting material of HbV in the production process.
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