In 1934, Karl Meyer a German biochemist and his colleague John Palmer isolated a previously unknown chemical substance from the vitreous body of cows’ eyes, a polysaccharide with high molecular weight. They found that the substance has two sugar molecules. The common name is derived from “hyalos”, which is the Greek word for glass + uronic acid.
The term hyaluronate refers to the conjugate base of hyaluronic acid. Because the molecule typically exists in vivo in its polyanionic form, it is most commonly referred to as hyaluronan. It was first isolated as an acid, but under physiological conditions it acted like a salt (sodium hyaluronate). The term “hyaluronan” was announced in 1986 to conform with the international nomenclature of polysaccharides and is attributed to Endre Balazs (Balazs et al., 1986), who coined it to include the different forms the molecule can take, e.g, the acid form, hyaluronic acid, and the salts, such as sodium hyaluronate, which form at physiological pH.
HA was first used commercially in 1942 when Endre Balazs applied for a patent to use it as a substitute for egg white in bakery products. The first medical application of hyaluronan for humans was as a vitreous replacement during eye surgery in the late 1950s.
between 1948 and 1951, many chemists initiated research to elucidate the structure of hyaluronic acid. The chemical structure of haluronan was essentially unraveled by Karl Mayer and his associates in the 1950s.
Until the late 1970s, hyaluronic acid was described as a "goo" molecule, a ubiquitous carbohydrate polymer that is part of the extracellular matrix, for example, hyaluronic acid is a major component of the synovial fluid, and was found to enhance the viscosity of the fluid.
In the second half of the twentieth century, hyaluronic acid (HA) was found in different tissues and liquids of vertebrae animals as well as humans. The used hyaluronan was originally isolated from human umbilical cord, and shortly after from rooster combs in a highly refined and high molecular weight form.
HA was subsequently derivative from several other sources. The physicochemical structure properties, and biological role of this polysaccharide were studied in numerous laboratories.
The first hyaluronan biomedical product, Healon, was developed in the 1970s and 1980s by Pharmacia (pharmaceutical company), and approved for use in eye surgery (i.e., corneal transplantation, cataract surgery, glaucoma surgery, and surgery to repair retinal detachment).
The Italian pharmaceutical company Fidia Farmaceutici SpA is one of the early pioneers in the medical application of hyaluronic acid. In the 1960s, with the first ever approved hyaluronic acid-based preparation for the management of skin lesions: Connettivina; in the late 1980s, the company obtained marketing authorization for the very first hyaluronic acid-based product for intra-articular administration: Hyalgan, a viscosupplement for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
It was also found to have clinical applications, mostly for eye surgery, treatment of joint diseases. Medical studies of HA include its role in fertilization, embryogenesis, development of the immune response, wound repairing, oncological and infectious diseases, processes of ageing and the problems of aesthetic medicine. Hyaluronan is widely used in applied biochemistry and enzymology as a substrate for the quantitative determination of the enzyme hyaluronidase. Hyaluronic acid is also a component of the group A streptococcal extracellular capsule, and is believed to play a role in virulence.