3DChem.com - Chemistry, Structures & 3D Molecules a visual and interactive website showcasing the beautiful world of chemistry

Chitosan (Molecule of the Month for February 2009)


Chitosan is a linear polysaccharide composed of randomly distributed β-(1-4)-linked D-glucosamine (deacetylated unit) and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (acetylated unit). It has a number of commercial and possible biomedical uses. Chitosan is produced commercially by deacetylation of chitin , which is the structural element in the exoskeleton of crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, etc.). Chitosan's properties allow it to rapidly clot blood, and has recently gained approval in the USA for use in bandages and other hemostatic agents. Chitosan purified from shrimp shells is used in a granular hemostatic product, Celox, made by Medtrade Biopolymers Inc. of Crewe, England

In agriculture, chitosan is used primarily as a plant growth enhancer, and as a substance that boosts the ability of plants to defend against fungal infections. It is approved for use outdoors and indoors on many plants grown commercially and by consumers. The active ingredient is found in the shells of crustaceans, such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimp, and in certain other organisms. Given its low potential for toxicity and its abundance in the natural environment, chitosan is not expected to harm people, pets, wildlife, or the environment when used according to label directions. Chitosan can also be used in water processing engineering as a part of a filtration process. Chitosan causes the fine sediment particles to bind together and is subsequently removed with the sediment during sand filtration. Chitosan also removes phosphorus, heavy minerals, and oils from the water. Chitosan is an important additive in the filtration process. Sand filtration apparently can remove up to 50% of the turbidity alone while the chitosan with sand filtration removes up to 99% turbidity

Chitosan is frequently sold in tablet form at health stores as a 'fat attractor': It is supposed to have the capability of attracting fat from the digestive system and expelling it from the body so that users can, it is claimed, lose weight without eating less. However, some scientific research suggests that these claims are likely without substance. At best, unmodified chitosan would remove roughly 10 calories per day from a person's diet.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Chitosan

click on the picture above to interact
with the 3D model of the
Chitosan structure
(this will open a new browser window)

Picture of Chitosan

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for February 2009 )