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ECPB 2017, 79(3): 53–63

Chitosan: Biomedical Studies and Prospects of Use in Clinical Practice


Chitosan is a natural-based biopolymer, a product of chemical or enzymatic deacetylation of naturally occurring polysaccharide chitin, the main component of the exoskeleton of crustaceans (crabs, shrimps, etc.) and cell walls of fungi. It is an aminopolysaccharide consisting of repeating D-glucosamine residues linked by (1-4) glycosidic bonds. Chitosan is a biocompatible non-toxic, non-allergenic and biodegradable polymer of basic/cationic nature. Due to favorable biopharmaceutical characteristics the interest to biomedical applications of chitosan has been greatly increased over last two decades.

This review focuses on recent experimental and clinical studies on this polysaccharide from its bioactivity point of view to highlight diverse applications of chitosan and chitosan-based materials in biomedical research, current status and future prospects of its use in medicine. Chitosan is a unique polymer with a broad range of biological activity. The promising results of fundamental biochemical and pharmacological investigations allow to study chitosan, its derivatives and compositions in pre-clinical and clinical trials to confirm high efficiency of their use in various areas of medical practice.

One of the main fields of its clinical application is regenerative medicine. A great number of studies has shown that chitosan could be successfully used as a basic component of hemostatic, wound- and burn-healing formulations. This polysaccharide is widely used as antimicrobial and antifungal agent, either alone or blended with other polymeric materials. Chitosan has also a great potential as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, hepato- and radioprotective agent. Numerous studies have indicated that chitosan and its derivatives are promising and versatile scaffold materials for tissue engineering, including bone tissue restoration in dentistry and orthopedy.

It has been also found that Chitosan is highly efficient biosorbent, first of all for heavy metals, including radionuclides, thus being useful in a great number of medical and environmental applications.

Recently there has been a growing interest in the chemical modification of Chitosan and ability to improve its water solubility and widen possible applications. Its functionalization, cross-linking and conjugation to other bioactive molecules can provide new functional materials with specific physicochemical and biological properties to be employed in many fields of medicine and biomedical research.

Physical, chemical and biological properties of this polycationic biopolymer make it a promising platform for the development of modern drug delivery systems. The structure of Chitosan and its modification allow both covalent and non-covalent attachment of bioactive compounds of a polymeric carrier for controlled drug delivery and release.

Clinical trials are currently in progress and aim to develop novel chitosan-based formulations for a variety of therapeutic applications. Advanced biomedical studies would allow optimizing of the biopharmaceutical characteristics of these materials and may provide new opportunities for their use in medicine.

Article recieved: 02.08.2017

Keywords: chitosan, hemostatic agents, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, drug delivery

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