Plant pectin constitutes an important class of naturally occurring polysaccharides and are widely distributed in various fruits and vegetables consumed on a regular basis. These biomolecules are reported to exhibit a vast array of biological activities including effects on digestive system, chemo-preventive effect in colon cancer, regulation of blood cholesterol level and immune-potentiating effects. However, variation in spectrum of activity and efficacy occurs due to different sources of pectin and also different methods of extraction. Pectin modification by pH treatment, change in temperature or enzymatic modification methods can ensure derivatives with variable but defined degrees of esterification, customized physicochemical properties and improved pharmacological and therapeutic profile, mainly in cancer prevention and management. Pharmaceutical utility of plant pectin is attributed to the unique rheological behavior and gelling properties in aqueous medium and have been successfully employed in development of colon specific sustained release drug delivery systems and edible pectin films with stabilizing effect on entrapped labile molecules. The goal of the review article is to focus on the therapeutic and pharmaceutical benefits of native and modified pectin. Although, several milestones towards understanding the process of pectin modification have been established, most of the data generated till date are obtained from in vitro studies or on commercial varieties of modified pectin. Complete characterization of structure-activity relationships of modified pectin, well-planned in vivo investigations and optimization of pectin-based scaffolds for controlled and targeted drug delivery in oncotherapy are yet to be ascertained for enhancing the marketing potential of these renewable plant-derived biopolymers.
Key words: Citrus pectin, edible films, apoptosis, colon cancer, modified pectin.
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