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What Is Chitosan?

Chitosan (KY-tuh-sin) is a biopolymer derived from the chitin (KY-tin) found in the exoskeletons of shrimp and other crustaceans. Incredibly tough yet remarkably pliable, chitin is naturally woven together into nanofiber bundles and layered to create a durable protective shell—similar to the stacked arrangement of wood fibers in plywood sheets.



interacts with human tissue without eliciting adverse effects


breaks down quickly when exposed to common enzymes


naturally resistant to bacteria, viruses and fungi


sticks easily to mucosa linings of the mouth, lungs, intestines, etc.


generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. FDA


mediates the interruption of oxidative stress on cells

As the only cationic (positively charged) molecule in nature, chitosan possesses a unique ability to interact with many types of human cells due to their naturally anionic (negatively charged) properties.


Topical/Trauma Hemostats

By interacting with negatively charged skin membranes to initiate agglutination of the red blood cells/platelets, chitosan activates the clotting pathway and leads to thrombus (clot) formation.

Vaccine Adjuvant

A chitosan-adjuvanted vaccine complex targets antigen-presenting cells, provoking macrophages to regulate the Th1/Th2 immune response and improving phagocytosis. Additionally, the positive (cationic) charge of chitosan binds to antigens to enable a more slow, controlled release.

Antimicrobial Agent

Chitosan’s positive charge can interact with both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, offering different benefits depending on its molecular weight. High-weight chitosan can chelate essential metals, prevent nutrient uptake and alter cell wall permeability; low-weight chitosan can penetrate cell walls membrane to affect RNA, protein synthesis and mitochondria function.

Liposome Encapsulation

When using liposomes to deliver therapy, research demonstrates that coating them with chitosan (“chitosomes”) improves their solubility/formulation, reduces “leakage” of the active ingredient and reduces degradation.


Nanoparticles manufactured from chitosan (or derivative forms) can provide drug delivery systems across different methods of administration, utilizing its mucoadhesive property to release active ingredients in a controlled, sustained manner.

Wound Care/Dressing

Compared to conventional synthetic antibiotics, the antimicrobial properties of chitosan molecule make it an excellent starting material for wound care and wound dressing applications—mitigating infection/inflammation while also promoting healing.

Tissue Engineering

Chitosan can be used to fabricate scaffolds, gels and membranes to repair/regenerate a variety of tissue (myocardial, musculoskeletal, nervous, etc.). Within these structures, chitosan can also deliver active ingredients and slow the release of therapeutics.

Drug Excipient

In pharmaceuticals, chitosan can be used as a tablet binder—assisting in tablet strength and reducing tablet friability. As a disintegrant, chitosan assists tablet breakdown and release of active ingredients more quickly in the digestive tract. As a coating agent, chitosan can mask unpleasant tastes/odors, prevent moisture uptake and improve stability.

Broadly speaking, chitosan is derived by removing acetyl groups from a chitin molecule. A chitosan product's degree of deacetylation (DDA) refers to the total percentage of acetyl groups which have been removed during formulation (usually between 70% and 95%). DDA is the most common differentiator between chitosan products, and trū Chitosan is capable of creating formulations across the full deacetylation spectrum according to your needs.  



0% deacetylated


fully deacetylated

Pharmaceutics (2023)

Chitosan: A potential biopolymer in drug delivery and biomedical applications

Desai, Rana, Salave, et al.

Polymers (2021)

Chitosan: An overview of its properties and applications

Aranaz, Alcántara, Conceptión Civera, et al.

International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2020)

Chitosan derivatives and their application in biomedicine

Wang, Meng, Li, et al.

Chemosphere (2021)

Applications of chitosan in environmental remediation

Pal, Pal, Nakashima, et al.

Carbohydrate Polymers (2022)

Chitosan: A review of molecular structure, bioactivities and interactions with the human body

Kou, Peters, Mucalo, et al.

Journal of Hazardous Materials (2021)

Chitosan modifications for adsorption of pollutants

Saheed, Da Oh, Suah, et al.

Selected research

Still not convinced? Check out some of the findings from the latest high-profile chitosan research published in major industry journals.


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