Chitin Nanofibrils :An Innovative Cosmetic Delivery
Professor of Applied Cosmetic Dermatology, II University of Naples
Visiting Professor of China Medical University Shenyang
Head of R&D, Mavi Sud s.r.l
Mavi Sud s.r.l.
Via dell’Industria 1,04011 Aprilia (LT)- Italy firstname.lastname@example.org
In chemical terms chitin is a natural polysaccharide, present in scrub and shrimp shells
formed by glucosamine and N-acetyl glucosamine, linked in a glycoside structure.
(Muzzarelli RAA, et al., 1999; Muzzarelli R.A.A. and Muzzarelli C. 2005)
Its alfa-nanocrystalline form separated by a patented process, is used as nanofibril of
240x5x7 nm in dimension. These nanocrystals, exhibiting an exceptionally high surface
(up to 400 m2/gr), have demonstrated a relevant biological significance. Thus they are able to activate fibroblast proliferation and cytokine production, favoring the giant cell
migration, macrophage activation and neovascolarization. Due to its molecular
conformation and its particular chemical-physical activity, the chitin nanofibril (CN) is
capable not only to establish ionic bond with a great quantity of water, just as yaluronic
acid (YA), but also to form complexes with different active ingredients delivering them
to different site of the skin for different periods of time, in depending of the selected
vehicle used. (Morganti P. et al., 2007).
Having CN the same backbone of YA, it is strongly hydrophobic and capable to attract
and bind many molecules of water, establishing also stable ionic bonds with the
negative sulfate location of the
glycosaminoglycans (GAG). CN, in fact, is a
polysaccharide strongly positively charged.
can be selected to obtain a local or global
activity at level of lipid bilayer membranes, or
the extracellular matrix rich in GAGs.
Therefore, the outmost layer of the stratum
corneum (SC) (sunscreens), the whole SC or
the intercorneocitary lipids (lipid lamellae) or
the corneocytes themselves within the SC
(moisturizing ingredients),the viable epidermis
and the dermis (anti-aging and antioxidant Fig.1 - Different skin penetrability compounds), but also structural entities such as hair follicle (hair grow promoting
agents), sebaceous or eccrine glands (anti-perspirant agents) or specific cell types such
as melanocytes (depigmenting agents), Langerhans or Mast cells (immunostimulant and
antiinflammatory compounds), can be targeted (Fig.1).
So far, differently from drugs, it can be safely stated that the majority of current functional skin ingredients, and, first of all CN, are delivered to either the outer layer of the skin, viable the epidermis or dermis (i.e cosmetic dermal delivery) and not to the systemic circulation (i.e transdermal cosmetic delivery), being particularly safe for its cosmetic use. (Morganti P et al., 2007; Wiechers J.W, 2008; Biagini et al., 2008). At this purpose the natural chitin nanofibril (CN), processed and patented worldwide from MAVI Sud (MAVI SUD Int. Pat, 2005), seems to play many supporting roles in the cosmetic/personal care/pharmaceutical markets both as delivery system and active compound (Morganti P, 2007; Morganti et al., 2008; Mezzana P., 2008).
What is interesting to underline is the capacity the nanofibril has to increase the clinical efficacy of the active ingredients (Muzzarelli RAA, et al. 1999; ), positively affecting their partition coefficient between formulation and skin, when used in the right way and in the right emulsion (Morganti P, 2008).
The prevalent amino groups of these rod-like and positively charged chitin crystallites, embedded in water form hydrogen and ionic
bonds with different kind of molecules,
originating innovative skin-friendly
complexes contributing to the stability of
the final suspension also (Fig. 2). These new
obtained chitin-complexes reorganize
theirselves spontaneously into large
domains, easily emulsifying different class
of lipids. In depending of the different
quantity and quality of CN, CN-complexes
and of other active compounds (natural and
synthetic lipids, polymers and amphiphilic Fig.2 – Chitin Nanofibrils at SEM molecules), the emulsifiers selected and all
the manufacturing process used, it is
possible to obtain different tipology of
emulsions (vesicular or lamellar, micro or
nano) solubilization systems and gel
Moreover, the CN-complexes can be chosen
from a wide variety of active compounds
both idro and lipo-soluble to meet the needs
of the application as well as the clinically
efficacy of the final cosmetic formulation
(Morganti et al., 2008; Mezzana P., 2008).
Fig.3 - different tipology of emulsions BIO-AVAILABILITY
However, to increase the efficacy, safety and bio-availability of all the active ingredients applied to the skin, the interaction between vehicle/active ingredient, the capacity the vehicle has to produce changes in skin structure, and the doplet size of the vehicle, should be critically controlled. The small size ensures a closer contact with the SC and thus, the amount of incorporated active ingredients within the carrier reaching the programmed site of action will be notably increased. CN seems, in fact, to have the ability to induce the creation of a monolayer lipidic film on the SC, thereby
increasing the skin penetration of all the active compounds, avoiding the excessive water evaporation and thus increasing skin hydration also.
Moreover, when directly in contact with the stratum corneum, the emulsified CN may be hydrolized by the skin’ enzymes and transformed in dimeric and/or tretrameric units.
Thus, oligomers may penetrate throughout the skin layers together with the eventually bonded active compounds.
However, the influence of formulation design, the selected ingredients used together with CN, and the manufacturing process are other important factor to obtain a correct skin penetration.
Therefore the CN, used alone or in combination with natural antioxidant and immunomodulant compounds may found interesting application, leading to a new generation of skin anti-aging and wound
Thus, our R&D group verified the cosmetic
activity of CN by different studies both in
vitro and in vivo ((Morganti et al. a, 2008;
Morganti et al. b, 2008).
These studies have stressed the influence
CN has to increase the active compounds’
penetration through the stratum corneum
and, thereby the viable skin (Fig. 4).
As matter of fact, in vivo skin hydration Fig.4 – Chitin Nanofibril into the skin increase from 40 (only CN vehicle) to 80% (CN + active compounds) (Tab.1), and surface skin-lipids increase also from 35 to 68%(Tab.2).
On the other side TEWL decrease from about 50 to 72% and lipid peroxides from 35% to66% (Tab.3). It is interesting to underline the whitening activity CN seems to have also strongly decreasing the age spots appearance (Tab. 4). On the other hand the in vitro studies demonstrates as CN is capable to increase both fibroblast proliferation and the relative collagen production. Naturally the ATP production is also seems to increase by the activity of CN (Tab.5).
Tab. 2 Tab. 1
Tab. 4 Tab.3
These examples underline the activity CN
seems to have as innovative cosmetic
delivery , allowing particular bonds and
connections between water, active molecules
and the cells of both stratum corneum and
viable skin. These CN bindings, seem to be
mediated by a group of non covalent
attractions (ionic and hydrogen bonds) that
are individually quite weak, but whose
energies can sum to create an effective force Tab. 5 between two or more separate molecules. CN, as a natural polysaccharide recognized from the cell components, may have
different fates. Part, totally hydrolized may be used as monomer subunits to construct
the giant polymeric macromolecules of the cell, such as large polysaccharides. Others,
may act as energy sources and therefore, broken down and transformed into small
molecules, in a maze of intracellular metabolic pathways. It is to remember that both
glucosamine and acetyl-glucosamine are fundamental molecules of our body. In
conclusion CN, as sugar- like compound , may be considered a safe molecule that, for
its particular characteristics to easily bond water and other molecules, and to penetrate
the different skin layers, may be useful not only as skin carrier, but also as an active
component to formulate innovative cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Many other
seem also the possibilities of its use as, for example, to make innovative fibers for
biofunctional textiles (Morganti P, 2008). For better understanding this fascinating
rediscovered molecule it will be necessary to make further multidisciplinary studies,
introducing new technology useful for ameliorate the general wellbeing. This is our
challenge for the future.
Biagini G., Zizzi A., Giantomassi F., Orlando F., Lucarini G., Mattioli Belmonte M., TucciM.G. and Morganti P., 2008, Cutaneous Absorption of Nanostructured Chitin
Associated with Natural Synergistic Molecules (Lutein) Journal of Applied Cosmetology 26:69-80
MAVI SUD International Patent, 2005, PCT/IB2005/053576
Mezzana P., 2008, Clinical efficacy of a new chitin-nanofibrils based gel in wound healing . In print on: Acta Chirurgiae Plasticae
Morganti P, Lee Yuanhong, Morganti G., 2007, Nano-structured products: technology and future, J. Appl. Cosmetol., 25:161-178
Morganti P., 2007, Where nutriceuticals meet cosmecuticals, J. Appl. Cosmetol., 25:111-120
Morganti P., Fabrizi G., Palombo P., Palombo M., Ruocco E. Cardillo A and Morganti G., 2008, a. Chitin-nanofibrils: a new active cosmetic carrier. Journal of Applied Cosmetology 26: 105-120
Morganti P, 2008, Unpublished data
Morganti P., Morganti G., Fabrizi G. and Cardillo A, 2008, b. A new sun to rejuvenate the skin. In print on: Journal of Applied Cosmetology
Morganti P., 2008, Leather & Textile Chemicals Chitin nanofibrils in textiles. Speciality Chemicals Magazine 28 (n.9) :26
Muzzarelli RAA, Mattioli-Belmonte M, Pugnaloni A and Biagini G., 1999, Biochemistry, histology and clinical uses of chitins and chitosans in wound healing. In: Chitin and and Chitinases P.Jollés and RAA Muzzarelli, eds. Birkhaüser Verlag Basel/Swizterland, p. 251-264
Muzzarelli R.A.A. and Muzzarelli C., 2005, Chitin nanofibrils. In: Chitin and Chitosan: Research Opportunities and Challenges P.K. Dutta and RAA Muzzarelli, eds. New Age International, New Dehli, India
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