New Method to Grow Synthetic Collagen

October 15, 2011

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According to Science Daily, the scientists at Rice University have discovered a new method of obtaining synthetic collagen. The new material, which forms from a liquid in as little as an hour, has many of the properties of natural collagen and may prove suitable for regenerating new tissues and organs from stem cells.

According to Jeffrey Hartgerink, a faculty investigator at Rice's Bioscience Research Collaborative, the new material, resembling closely native collagen, develops through a self-assembly process very similar to processes found in nature.

"Our supramolecules, fibres and hydrogels form in a similar way to native collagen, but we start with shorter peptides," said Hartgerink, associate professor of chemistry and of bioengineering.

Collagen is a key protein in the shaping of many tissues, including skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and blood vessels. Although abundant in the body, the protein is very hard to recreate, due to its complexity.

Hartgerink said it's too early to say whether the synthetic collagen can be substituted medically for human or animal-derived collagen. Nevertheless, the first stage of the research proved successful, since the enzyme that the body uses to break down native collagen also breaks down the new material at a similar speed.

Next step for scientists is to determine whether cells can live and grow in the new material and whether it performs the same way in the body that native collagen does. These clinical trials, if they prove warranted, are at least five years away.

Today animal-derived collagen is the form most commonly used in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

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