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Recombinant human hemoglobin (OptroD; rHb1.1) is a genetically engineered protein produced in Escherichia coli. The two alpha-globin polypeptides are genetically joined, resulting in a stable tetramer that does not dissociate into dimers or monomers. Historically, infusion in humans of acellular hemoglobin preparations has resulted in renal toxicity. This study was performed to evaluate the safety and pharmacokinetics of rHb1.1 when infused in humans.After giving informed consent, 48 healthy male volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either 0.015–0.32 g/kg 5% rHb1.1 (n = 34) or an equivalent amount of 5% human serum albumin (HSA; n = 14) infused intravenously over 0.8–1.9 h. Serum creatinine, creatinine clearance, urine N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase, and serum rHb1.1 concentrations were measured before and at timed intervals after infusion.Postinfusion urine N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase activity did not exceed preinfusion values at any interval in either group. Serum creatinine did not differ from preinfusion values at 1 day, 2–3 days, or 7 days after infusion for either group. Creatinine clearance increased significantly for the HSA group 12 h after infusion (138 +/- 16 ml/min, means +/- SE) and in the rHb1.1 group 1 day after infusion (112 +/- 5 ml/min; P < 0.05). Values for creatinine clearance did not differ from preinfusion values for either group at any other postinfusion interval; serum creatinine and creatinine clearance did not differ between groups at any time. The amount of hemoglobin excreted in the urine did not exceed approximately 0.04% of the administered rHb1.1 dose in any volunteer. Plasma clearance of rHb1.1 decreased and half-life increased as a function of increasing plasma concentration (e.g., the half-life was 2.8 h at a plasma concentration of 0.5 mg/ml and 12 h at 5 mg/ml). The incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms, fever, and chills was greater after infusion of rHb1.1 than after HSA (P < 0.05).No evidence for rHb1.1-mediated nephrotoxicity was observed in volunteers given doses of rHb1.1 as large as 0.32 g/kg. Because the clearance of rHb1.1 varies inversely with its concentration, additional studies with larger doses are necessary to determine the half-life expected in clinical use. Administration of rHb1.1 to conscious humans is associated with some side effects, such as gastrointestinal upset, fever, chills, headache, and backache.