The growing demand for surfactants worldwide has a profound impact on the environment and public health. The quest for environmentally friendly “green” surfactants has driven research toward bio-based surfactants from renewable sources with improved performances and low toxicity. Amino acid-based surfactants (AAS) are a promising class of biocompatible and biodegradable surfactants for biomedical applications due to their improved safety profiles that meet the requirements of both physiological and ecological compatibility. Natural amino acids are chiral compounds and important raw materials for production of AAS. The amino acid pool allows the synthesis of multifunctional surfactants with chiral properties that can be tailored for specific technological and/or biomedical applications. The nature of the amino acid residue, the chirality, and the ability for hydrogen bond formation strongly influences the surface active properties and self-assembly behavior of AAS. This review summarizes recent developments in AAS structure-property relationships providing valuable information for modulation of the surface active and biological properties of AAS to meet specific biomedical applications. The interaction of AAS with biointerfaces and biological molecules is also addressed concerning cellular toxicity and potential therapeutic applications of AAS as antimicrobial agents, drug delivery vehicles, and a promising alternative to viral vectors in gene therapy.
Part of the book: Application and Characterization of Surfactants