Multi-talented – and made from shrimp shells
Chitosan is a real all-rounder – a sustainable raw material with very useful properties. For example: the substance obtained from chitin stimulates the immune system. It has an antibacterial effect, is moisture-regulating and blood-staunching. Nano-particles from chitosan have the potential for future applications: they can guide drug substances to their target cells, even overcoming tissue barriers in the process. Chitosan is already being successfully used in crop protection too. When applied correctly it makes crops more resistant and helps them to grow. This is why scientists are hoping great things from research into this promising substance. Chitosan experts from all over the world are meeting in Münster from August 30 to September 2 at the world’s largest Chitin and Chitosan Conference, which is expecting 250 participants from around 40 countries.
The 12th International Conference of the European Chitin Society (12th EUCHIS) and the 13th International Chitin and Chitosan Conference (13th ICCC) were combined for the conference in Münster, where it is being held for the first time. It is being hosted by the working groups led by Prof. Bruno Moerschbacher and Prof. Francisco Goycoolea from the Institute of the Biology and Biotechnology of Plants at Münster University.
Besides cellulose, chitin is one of the most frequent polymers – i.e. chain-shaped molecular compounds – found in nature. It is one of the main components in the cell walls of mushrooms and in shells of crustaceans, e.g. shrimps. Chitosan, on the other hand, is much rarer in the natural world. As a result, it is obtained commercially from chitin. With today’s level of knowledge it is possible to produce high-quality chitosans. For some years now these have been used in initial products in the areas of cosmetics, medical technology and agriculture.
Scientists from all over the world are endeavouring to improve their understanding of the molecular connections between the complex structure of chitin and chitosan polymers and their effect on cells. One thing they want to do is produce chitosan by biotechnological means in order to be able to examine the properties of the substance. "As a result of the intensive research that has been carried out over the past few years," says biotechnologist Bruno Moerschbacher, "we could be seeing more possible applications for chitin and chitosan compounds. The potential is nowhere near exhausted, so it’s particularly important that there should now be active exchanges between academics and research institutes in industry."
Those attending the conference will discuss not only latest findings on chitin and chitosan from the point of view of chemistry, biology, biotechnology and nanotechnology, but also the wide range of uses of these bio-polymers. The programme will also include technical workshops, a symposium for young researchers and an exhibition of industrial partners.