|Chitin is a white, insoluble, linear homopolymer composed of units of a glucose derivative (N-acetyl-D-glucosamine) joined to form a long, unbranched chain. Chitin is a polysaccharide material very similar in structure to cellulose. Like cellulose, chitin contributes
strength and protection to the organism. Chitin is one of the main components in the cell walls of fungi, the exoskeletons of insects and other arthropods, and in some other animals. Chitin strengthens the supporting structures (eg shells) of many invertebrates such as shrimps, crabs etc.
Chitin is the material which makes up the exoskeleton of insects and, in more or less modified form, in almost all arthropods. In arthropods, chitin occurs in a crosslinked form, α-chitin. Chitin is present in nature usually complexed with other polysaccharides and with proteins. In arthropods the chitinous shell, or exoskeleton, covers the surface of the body, does not grow, and is periodically cast off (molted). Chitin can be processed into many derivatives, the most readily available being chitosan, which is formed when chitin is heated with a chemical solution.
Chitin, chitosan, and derivatives thereof are used in a number of industrial applications, including the production of viscosity control agents, adhesives, chromatography carriers, paper-strengthening agents, flocculent agents, food additives, drugs, and cosmetics. Chitin and chitosan have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that have led to them being used as wound dressings, surgical sutures and in cataract surgery and Periodontal disease and burns treatment. Chitin is natural, non-toxic, non-allergenic, anti-microbial, and biodegradable. It has a strong positive charge, which allows it to bind with negatively charged surfaces or materials, including metals, skin, and macromolecules such as proteins.