A Review of Water-Resistant Cellulose-Based Materials in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Application

Curr Med Chem. 2021;28(40):8296-8318. doi: 10.2174/0929867328666210208113354.


Background: Cellulose, having huge reserves of natural polymers, has been widely applied in pharmaceutical and biomedicine fields due to its good biocompatibility, biodegradability, non-toxicity and excellent mechanical properties. At present, water- resistant metal-based and petroleum-based materials applied in the medical field have obvious problems of poor biocompatibility and high cost. Therefore, water-resistant cellulose- based materials with good biocompatibility and low price have become an attractive alternative. This review aims to summarize the preparation of water-resistant cellulose- based materials and their potential application in pharmaceutical and biomedical in recent years.

Methods: Common hydrophobic treatments of cellulose fibers or paper were overviewed. The preparation, properties and applications of water-resistant cellulose- based materials in the pharmaceutical and biomedical fields were summarized.

Results: Common hydrophobic treatments of cellulose fibers or paper were divided into chemical modification (graft polymerization, crosslinking, solution casting or dip-coating), physico-chemical surface modifications (plasma treatments, surface patterning, electrostatic spraying and electrowetting) and physical processing (electrostatic spinning, SAS process and 3D EHD printing). These hydrophobically processed cellulose fibers or paper could be prepared into various water-resistant cellulose-based materials and applied in pharmaceutical excipients, drug-loaded amphiphilic micelles, drug-loaded composite fibers, hydrophobic biocomposite film/coatings and paper-based detectors. They presented excellent water resistance and biocompatibility, low cytotoxicity and high drug loading ability, and stable drug release rate, etc., which could be used for water-insoluble drugs carriers, wound dressings, and medical testing equipment.

Conclusion: Currently, water-resistant cellulose-based materials were mainly applied in water-insoluble drugs delivery carriers, wound dressing and medical diagnosis and presented great application prospects. However, the contradiction between hydrophobicity and mechanical properties of these reported water-resistant cellulose-based materials limited their wider application in biomedicine such as tissue engineering. In the future, attention will be focused on the higher hydrophobicity of water-resistant cellulose-based materials with excellent mechanical properties. In addition, clinical medical research of water-resistant cellulose-based materials should be strengthened.

Keywords: Biomedical; Cellulose; Hydrophobic treatment; Pharmaceutical; Water-resistant cellulose-based materials; chemical modification..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cellulose*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Polymers
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Water*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Hydrogels
  • Polymers
  • Water
  • Cellulose