Research on chitin as a marine resource is pointing to novel applications for this cellulose-like biopolymer. Discovery of nondegrading solvent systems has permitted the spinning of filaments, for example, for use as surgical sutures. New methods for preparing the bioactive alkyl glycoside of N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (the monomer unit of chitin) and a microcrystalline chitin has encouraged their use as promoters for growth of bifidobacteria and as an aid in digestion of high-lactose cheese whey by domestic animals. Chitin-protein complexes of several crustacean species show great variability in ratios of chitin to covalently bound protein and in residual protein in the "purified" chitins.