Chapter 8

Microbial Exopolysaccharides for Biomedical Applications

Silvia Vasiliu, Stefania Racovita, Maria-Andreea Lungan, Jacques Desbrieres and Marcel Popa

Abstract

The environment represents the major source of prokaryotic (Eubacteria and Archaebacteria) and eukaryotic (fungi, algae and phytoplankton) microorganisms that can posses the ability to synthesize various microbial exopolysaccharides. Since the mid-19 th century, when the dextran was found in the wine, the microbial exopolysaccharides have received a growing attention due to their structural diversity that can supply a broad range of physico-chemical, rheological and biological properties. Exopolysaccharides, known as extracellular polysaccharides because they are secreted outside of the cells, are high molecular weight polymers, that can be classified depending on the monomeric composition into two groups: homopolysaccharides composed of a single type of monosaccharides (dextran, levan) or heteropolysaccharides formed from two or more repeating units of monosaccharides (xanthan, gellan, alginate and hyaluronic acid). Also, microbial exopolysaccharides are produced in two basic forms: capsules and slime polysaccharides. Industrial and technological advancement has led to the use of the exopolysaccharides in various fields such as, food industry, waste water treatment, bioremediation as well as in the pharmaceutical and biomedical fields. Antiulcer, antitumor, anticoagulant and antiviral activities, anti-reflux therapies, cholesterol lowering agents, surgical and ophtalmic applications, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are some of the health benefits of exopolysaccharides. The objective of this chapter is to make in introduction a concise presentation of the structure and properties of the most popular exopolysaccharides such as, dextran, curdlan, pullulan, xanthan gum, gellan gum, hyaluronic acid and alginate followed by a discussion about their applications for treatment and prevention of some diseases.

Total Pages: 180-238 (59)

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