Introduction: Dextran is a family of natural polysaccharides that is widely under investigation for use as polymeric carriers in novel drug delivery systems. The optimal drug delivery (and consequently maximum therapeutic effect) will be accomplished when carrier systems are used mainly for drugs with antitumoral activity, as they increase their blood permanence time, taking advantage of the increased mass that reduces kidney ultrafiltration.
Areas covered: This review summarizes the attempts that have been made in the development of dextran conjugates and their application. The manuscript describes dextran hydrogels, the use of conjugates of dextran in bioadhesive oral delivery systems, colon drug delivery, reduction of ulcerogenicity of drugs, production of micelles, solubilization, long-circulating pharmaceutical carriers as anticancer drug carriers, non-viral vectors, stabilization of enzymes, functionalization of nanomaterials, diagnosis of solid tumors and hyperthermic treatment and liver targeting.
Expert opinion: Dextran conjugation has aided the design of new tailor-made polymers with different molecular weights, shapes, structures and with the functional groups needed for coupling at the desired positions in the chain. Dextran prodrugs are very useful systems for achieving controlled drug release and drug targeting. In particular, various dextran-antitumor drug conjugates enhance the effectiveness and improve the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapeutic agents. Future studies should concentrate on barriers for their clinical use and safety as a drug carrier.