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Chitosan: An Attractive Biocompatible Polymer for Microencapsulation

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Abstract

Chitosan is a weak cationic polysaccharide composed essentially of β(1 → 4) linked glucosamine units together with some N-acetylglucosamine units. It is obtained by extensive deacetylation of chitin, a polysaccharide common in nature. Chitosan is a biocompatible, biodegradable, and nontoxic natural polymer that exhibits excellent film-forming ability. As a result of its cationic character, chitosan is able to react with polyanions giving rise to polyelectrolyte complexes. Therefore, because of these interesting properties, it has become the subject of numerous scientific reports and patents on the preparation of microspheres and microcapsules. The techniques employed to microencapsulate with chitosan include, among others, ionotropic gelation, spray drying, emulsion phase separation, simple and complex coacervation, and polymerization of a vinyl monomer in the presence of chitosan. The aim of this work is to review some of the more common techniques used and to put forward the results obtained by our research group in preparing chitosan-based microcapsules: for taste masking and improving the stability of a nutritional oil, the sustained release of drugs, as well as the preparation of chitosan superparamagnetic microcapsules for the immobilization of enzymes.

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Scanning electron micrograph of some superparamagnetic chitosan particles and magnetic hysteresis loop of the microparticles.

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