Glycol chitosan (GC), a water-soluble chitosan derivative with hydrophilic ethylene glycol branches, has both hydrophobic segments for the encapsulation of various drugs and reactive functional groups for facile chemical modifications. Over the past two decades, a variety of molecules have been physically encapsulated within or chemically conjugated with GC and its derivatives to construct a wide range of functional biomaterials. This review summarizes the recent advances of GC-based materials in cell surface labeling, multimodal tumor imaging, and encapsulation and delivery of drugs (including chemotherapeutics, photosensitizers, nucleic acids, and antimicrobial agents) for combating cancers and microbial infections. Besides, different strategies for GC modifications are also highlighted with the aim to shed light on how to endow GC and its derivatives with desirable properties for therapeutic purposes. In addition, we discuss both the promises and challenges of the GC-derived biomaterials.
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