Chitin, as the main component of the exoskeleton of Arthropoda, is a highly available natural polymer that can be processed into various value-added products. Its most important derivative, i.e., chitosan, comprising β-1,4-linked 2-amino-2-deoxy-β-d-glucose (deacetylated d-glucosamine) and N-acetyl-d-glucosamine units, can be prepared via alkaline deacetylation process. Chitosan has been used as a biodegradable, biocompatible, non-antigenic, and nontoxic polymer in some in-vitro applications, but the recently found potentials of chitosan for in-vivo applications based on its biological activities, especially antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer activities, have upgraded the chitosan roles in biomaterials. Chitosan approval, generally recognized as a safe compound by the United States Food and Drug Administration, has attracted much attention toward its possible applications in diverse fields, especially biomedicine and agriculture. Despite some favorable characteristics, the chitosan's structure should be customized for advanced applications, especially due to its drawbacks, such as low drug-load capacity, low solubility, high viscosity, lack of elastic properties, and pH sensitivity. In this context, derivatization with relatively inexpensive and highly available mono- and di-saccharides to soluble branched chitosan has been considered a "game changer". This review critically scrutinizes the emerging technologies based on the synthesis and application of lactose- and galactose-modified chitosan as two important chitosan derivatives. Some characteristics of chitosan derivatives and biological activities have been detailed first to understand the value of these natural polymers. Second, the saccharide modification of chitosan has been discussed briefly. Finally, the applications of lactose- and galactose-modified chitosan have been scrutinized and compared to native chitosan to provide an insight into the current state-of-the research for stimulating new ideas with the potential of filling research gaps.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.