Cyclodextrins are crystalline, water soluble, cyclic, non-reducing, oligosaccharides built up from six,
seven, or eight glucopyranose units. Cyclodextrins have long been known as products, which are able to form inclusion complexes. They used to be, however, no more than scientific curiosities due to their limited availability and high price. As a result of intensive research and advances in enzyme technology, cyclodextrins and their chemically modified derivatives are now available commercially, generating a new technology: the packaging on molecular level. Molecules, or functional groups of molecules being less hydrophilic than water, can be included in the cyclodextrin cavity in the presence of water, if their molecular dimensions correspond to those of the cyclodextrin cavity. The formed inclusion complexes are relatively stable, and rapidly separate from the solution in crystalline form. One, two or three CD molecules contain one or more entrapped guest molecules. This is the essence of molecular encapsulation, the packaging on molecular level! Molecules of poorly soluble drugs, rapidly deteriorating flavors, volatile fragrances, toxic pesticides or dangerous explosives, even gases, can be encapsulated. The capsules of molecular size are the cyclodextrins. Almost all applications of cyclodextrins involve complexation. In many cases complexes are separated in more or less pure form and utilized as crystalline substances (drug and flavor complexes) while in other cases the complexation process is only a transient state, and becomes apparent through the final result (CD-catalysis, separation of mixtures.) Up to quite recently cyclodextrins have been considered exclusively as "empty" capsules of molecular size. Recent studies revealed such a broad versatility in their application, that they can be considered as a new group of industrial basic materials. CDs are besides being "molecular capsules", reagents in analytical chemistry and diagnostics, raw materials for the production of derivatives and polymers, biologically active substances, etc.
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