Background: Synthetic and natural polymers and their modified derivatives are
widely being used in various biomedical applications. Recently, natural polymers (polysaccharides)
and their modified analogs, in particular, have attracted the attention of the researchers
to use these materials specifically as drug delivery systems and macromolecular prodrugs. These
applications have opened up new avenues to design and develop such materials capable of delivering therapeutic
drugs (conventional and nucleic acid-based) to the targeted tissues/cells in a controlled manner. Biodegradability,
biocompatibility and non-toxic nature have made them quite useful for such applications.
Methods: Various polysaccharide-based delivery agents, developed over the last ten years, and their applications
have been reviewed in detail.
Results: Polysaccharides conjugated to various ligands have been shown to deliver anticancer drugs and genetic
materials inside the cells. Some of them have displayed their targeting ability i.e. delivery of a drug /
gene to a specific tissue/cell. For gene delivery applications, these polysaccharides have been modified to incorporate
cationic charge density facilitating interactions of the complexes with the cell membranes and their
uptake. Likewise, anti-cancer drugs have been delivered by self-assembled formulations of modified polysaccharides
in a controlled manner. Besides, a brief description of the methods of their preparation has also been
outlined. These formations have clearly demonstrated the significance of polysaccharide-based delivery
agents. Some of these formulations are in various phases of clinical trials.
Conclusion: A wide range of polysaccharide-based conjugates have been designed, synthesized and evaluated
for their ability to transport drug/gene inside the cells. Further studies would establish the superiority of such
formulations in the medical applications.