Abstract

Polysaccharides are natural polymers with hydrophilic, biocompatible and biodegradable characteristics and have many opportunities in the food and pharmaceutical sectors. This review focuses on the field of nano and microstructures whose internal structure is based on networked polysaccharide chains in 3D i.e., polysaccharide nanogels (NGs) and microgels (MGs). As it is observed the number of articles on NGs and MGs in peer reviewed scientific journals has been increasing over the last two decades. At the same time, the relative contribution of polysaccharides in this field is gaining place. This review focuses on the different applied methods for the fabrication of a variety of polysaccharide-based NGs and MGs and aims to highlight the recent advances on the subject and present their potentials and properties with regards to their integration in aspects of medicinal and food sciences. The presentation of the recent advances in the application of polysaccharide NGs and MGs is divided in materials with potential as emulsion stabilizers and materials with potential as carriers of bioactives. For applications in the medical sector the division is based on the fabrication processes and includes self-assembled, electrostatically complexed/ionically crosslinked and chemically crosslinked NGs and MGs. It is concluded that many advances are expected in the application of these polysaccharide-based materials and in particular as nutrient-loaded emulsion stabilizers, viscosity modifiers and co-assembled structures in combination with proteins.

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