• chitosan;
  • nanoparticles;
  • drug delivery;
  • coacervation;
  • vaccines;
  • gene therapy


Chitosan is a cationic polysaccharide that finds diverse applications in medicine and pharmacy because of its excellent biological qualities: it is biocompatible, biodegradable, mucoadhesive and non-toxic, and exhibits antimicrobial, antiviral and immunoadjuvant properties. It can be easily processed in diverse forms, such as films, threads, tablets, membranes and microparticles/nanoparticles, allowing the design of a variety of medical and pharmacological devices adaptable to end purposes. In particular, chitosan nanoparticles have become of great interest as polymeric platforms for the development of new pharmacological and therapeutic drug release systems with improved biodistribution and increased specificity and sensitivity, and reduced pharmacological toxicity. Chitosan nanoparticles have been found appropriate for non-invasive routes of drug administration: oral, nasal, pulmonary and ocular routes. These applications are facilitated by the absorption-enhancing effect of chitosan. Additionally, chitosan nanoparticles have been proposed as non-viral vectors in gene therapy and have shown adjuvant effect in vaccines. This paper reviews the main procedures developed for preparing chitosan nanoparticles. Moreover, it illustrates the state of the art of chitosan nanoparticle applications in drug delivery. Copyright © 2011 Society of Chemical Industry