Chitosan is increasingly used for safe nucleic acid delivery in gene therapy studies, due to well-known properties such as bioadhesion, low toxicity, biodegradability and biocompatibility. Furthermore, chitosan derivatization can be easily performed to improve the solubility and stability of chitosan–nucleic acid polyplexes, and enhance efficient target cell drug delivery, cell uptake, intracellular endosomal escape, unpacking and nuclear import of expression plasmids. As in other fields, chitosan is a promising drug delivery vector with great potential for the fish farming industry. This review highlights state-of-the-art assays using chitosan-based methodologies for delivering nucleic acids into cells, and focuses attention on recent advances in chitosan-mediated gene delivery for fish biotechnology applications. The efficiency of chitosan for gene therapy studies in fish biotechnology is discussed in fields such as fish vaccination against bacterial and viral infection, control of gonadal development and gene overexpression and silencing for overcoming metabolic limitations, such as dependence on protein-rich diets and the low glucose tolerance of farmed fish. Finally, challenges and perspectives on the future developments of chitosan-based gene delivery in fish are also discussed.
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