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Home » Biology Articles » Biotechnology » White Biotechnology » Hyaluronic acid: a natural biopolymer with a broad range of biomedical and industrial applications » Introduction

- Hyaluronic acid: a natural biopolymer with a broad range of biomedical and industrial applications

Hyaluronan (sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid, HA), a common component of synovial fluid (SF) and extracellular matrix (ECM), is a linear high molar mass, natural polysaccharide composed of alternating (1→4)-β linked d-glucuronic and (1→3)-β linked N-acetyl-d-glucosamine residues, Fig. 1. HA belongs to a group of substances known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), being structurally the most simple among them, the only one not covalently associated with a core protein, not synthesized in Golgi apparatus, and the only non-sulfated one. The molar mass of HA can reach as high as 10Da. Such high molar mass and its associated unique viscoelastic and rheological properties predispose HA to play important physiological roles in living organisms and make it an attractive biomaterial for various medical applications. Although HA is almost omnipresent (albeit in relatively small amounts) in the human body and in other vertebrates, the highest amounts of HA are found in the ECM of soft connective tissues (Laurent 1998). Besides vertebrates, HA is also present in the capsules of some bacteria (e.g., strains of Streptococci), but is absent in fungi, plants, and insects. The largest content by far of HA is found in rooster combs. Recently, a comprehensive overview of the sources from which HA can be isolated, and the contribution of the potential impurities, has been published (Shiedlin et al. 2004). A brief listing of the occurrence of HA in different animal tissues and its content is provided in Table 1.

Taking into account that recently a very comprehensive volume covering all aspects of hyaluronan chemistry and biology has been published (Garg and Hales 2004), in this review we will concentrate mostly on the biomedical application of HA and the methodologies of preparation of its samples with specified physico-chemical and biological properties.

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