The current standard of care for bone reconstruction, whether secondary to injury, nonunion, cancer resection, or idiopathic bone loss, is autologous bone grafting. Alternatives to autograft and allograft bone substitutes currently being researched are synthetic and natural graft materials that are able to guide bone regeneration. One promising material currently being researched is chitosan, a highly versatile, naturally occurring polysaccharide, derived from the exoskeleton of arthropods that is comprised of glucosamine and N-acetylglucosamine. Research on chitosan as a bone scaffold has been promising. Chitosan is efficacious in bone regeneration due to its lack of immunogenicity, its biodegradability, and its physiologic features. Chitosan combined with growth factors and/or other scaffold materials has proven to be an effective alternative to autologous bone grafts. Additionally, current studies have shown that it can provide the additional benefit of a local drug delivery system. As research in the area of bone scaffolding continues to grow, further clinical research on chitosan in conjunction with growth factors, proteins, and alloplastic materials will likely be at the forefront.
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