Chitin, extracted primarily from shellfish sources, is a unique biopolymer based on the N-acetyl-glucosamine monomer. More than 40 years have lapsed since this biopolymer had aroused the interest of the scientific community around the world for its potential biomedical applications. Chitin, together with its variants, especially its deacetylated counterpart chitosan, has been shown to be useful as a wound dressing material, drug delivery vehicle and increasingly a candidate for tissue engineering. The promise for this biomaterial is vast and will continue to increase as the chemistry to extend its capabilities and new biomedical applications are investigated. It is interesting to note that a majority of this work has come from Asia. Japan has been the undisputed leader, but other Asian nations, namely Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand have also. made notable contributions. More recently, China has joined the club to become an increasingly major research source for chitin and chitosan in Asia, This review surveys select works of key groups in Asia developing chitin and chitosan materials for implantable biomedical applications. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.