Chitin and lignin, by-products of fishery and plant biomass, can be converted to innovative high value bio- and eco-compatible materials. On the nanoscale, high antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cicatrizing and anti-aging activity is obtained by controlling their crystalline structure and purity. Moreover, electropositive chitin nanofibrlis (CN) can be combined with electronegative nanolignin (NL) leading to microcapsule-like systems suitable for entrapping both hydrophilic and lipophilic molecules. The aim of this study was to provide morphological, physico-chemical, thermogravimetric and biological characterization of CN, NL, and CN-NL complexes, which were also loaded with glycyrrhetinic acid (GA) as a model of a bioactive molecule. CN-NL and CN-NL/GA were thermally stable up to 114 °C and 127 °C, respectively. The compounds were administered to in vitro cultures of human keratinocytes (HaCaT cells) and human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSCs) for potential use in skin contact applications. Cell viability, cytokine expression and effects on hMSC multipotency were studied. For each component, CN, NL, CN-NL and CN-NL/GA, non-toxic concentrations towards HaCaT cells were identified. In the keratinocyte model, the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1α, IL-1 β, IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-α that resulted were downregulated, whereas the antimicrobial peptide human β defensin-2 was upregulated by CN-LN. The hMSCs were viable, and the use of these complexes did not modify the osteo-differentiation capability of these cells. The obtained findings demonstrate that these biocomponents are cytocompatible, show anti-inflammatory activity and may serve for the delivery of biomolecules for skin care and regeneration.
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