Hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid, HA) is a linear naturally occurring polysaccharide formed from repeating disaccharide units of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine and D-glucuronate. Despite its relatively simple structure, HA is an extraordinarily versatile glycosaminoglycan currently receiving attention across a wide front of research areas. It has a very high molar mass, usually in the order of millions of Daltons, and possesses interesting visco-elastic properties based on its polymeric and polyelectrolyte characteristics. HA is omnipresent in the human body and in other vertebrates, occurring in almost all biological fluids and tissues, although the highest amounts of HA are found in the extracellular matrix of soft connective tissues. HA is involved in several key processes, including cell signaling, wound repair and regeneration, morphogenesis, matrix organization and pathobiology. Clinically, it is used as a diagnostic marker for many disease states including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, liver pathologies, and as an early marker for impending rejection following organ transplantation. It is also used for supplementation of impaired synovial fluid in arthritic patients, following cataract surgery, as a filler in cosmetic and soft tissue surgery, as a device in several surgical procedures, particularly as an antiadhesive following abdominal procedures, and also in tissue engineering. This review will provide an overview of the structure and physiological role of HA, as well as of its biomedical and industrial applications. Recent advances in biotechnological approaches for the preparation of HA-based materials, and as a component of tissue scaffolding for artificial organs will also be presented.