Scientists discover how to make human collagen

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Collagen

In the fight against wrinkles maintaining collagen levels has
proved to be a major tool. Now sourcing effective collagen could
become easier for the cosmetic world, as scientists claim they have
discovered a way of reproducing the human form.

Found throughout the body, as a structural protein collagen is essential to reinforcing connective tissue for anything from tissues to bones, teeth and skin. In a cosmetics capacity it is included in anti-aging skin care products as a means of maintaining skin elasticity and is also injected to augment lips or on specific areas of the face marked by.

In fact, collagen is so important in the human body that there our entire body depends upon it to maintain its structural identity.

Traditionally collagen has been animal-sourced, principally from cows, which also proves a major source for a number of uses in the medical industry. But despite it being so commonplace and having so many applications, simulating the production of human collagen has been a major problem.

What scientists have struggled with for over 30 years is how to synthesize human collagen. The stumblig block has been how to link the easily made collagen 'snippets' into the longer, fibrous molecules necessary to complete the collagen protein.

Until now, that is.

A team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),the discovery of a method for making human collagen in the lab.

The method should go a long way towards making collagen easier to produce, with less of a risk of pathogens that can potentially infect humans and will also sit easier with consumers or patients who prefer to avoid animal-sourced products.

Furthermore the research team also point out that the process leaves room to manipulate the structure to the collagen, increasing its efficacy forn specific applications.

"We can make collagen that duplicates nature exactly, but we can diverge from that when it is desirable,"​ said Ronald Raines, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of biochemistry who, with postdoctoral fellow Frank W. Kotch, authored the new PNAS study.

The research team said they discovered how to synthesize the collagen by essentially having the protein assemble itself. Raines explained that it found a way of modifying the snippets of collagen so as they would fit together better with the long, thin fibers, producing a stronger fiber.

"Now we can make synthetic collagen that's longer than natural collagen,"​ says Raines. "We just don't have to take what nature gives us. We can make it longer and stronger."

Raines notes that there is still some fine-tuning to be carried out on the technology as he says he still wants to determine a means of precisely controlling the self-assembly of the collagen molecules to a specified size.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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