Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wisconsin scientists find a way to make human collagen in the lab

15.02.2006


Of all of the materials that make up our bodies, nothing is more ubiquitous than collagen.



It is the most important structural protein in the body, reinforcing connective tissue, bones and teeth, and forming long, fibrous cables to strengthen tendons. Collagen forms sheets of tissue that support the skin and every internal organ. There is nothing in the body, in fact, that does not depend in some way on collagen.

In medicine, collagen from animals, principally cows, is used to rebuild tissue destroyed by burns and wounds. Commonly, it is employed in plastic surgery to augment the lips and cheeks of starlets and others seeking perpetual youth. Catgut, the biodegradable sutures made from cow or horse intestines and used in surgery to minimize scarring, is also a form of collagen.


But for such a commonplace and useful protein, collagen has defied the efforts of biomedical researchers who have tried mightily to synthesize it for use in applications ranging from new wound-healing technologies to alleviating arthritis. The reason: Scientists were unable to synthesize the human protein because they had no way to link the easily made short snippets of collagen into the long, fibrous molecules necessary to mimic the real thing.

But now a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writing this week (Feb. 13, 2006) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), reports the discovery of a method for making human collagen in the lab.

The work is important because it opens a door to producing a material that can have broad use in medicine and replace the animal products that are now used but that can also harbor pathogens or spark undesirable immune responses. What’s more, the new work may also lay the foundation for applications in nanotechnology -- such as microscopic sensors that could be implanted in humans to confront the effects of disease -- because it gives scientists a way to precisely manipulate the lengthy molecules and add elements to collagen that confer new abilities.

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

Scientists have been seeking a way to make synthetic collagen for at least 30 years. In clinical settings, human collagen would be preferred over bovine collagen because the material now gleaned from cows can prompt an unwanted immune response in patients and it can harbor animal pathogens that might infect humans.

The Wisconsin team discovered a way to make the long, slender collagen molecules, in essence, by having the protein assemble itself. What was required, Raines explains, was a way to give the collagen snippets that scientists could easily make a way to "self assemble" into the long, thin fibers of native collagen. The Wisconsin team was able to modify the ends of the snippets so they could fit together and stick to form long collagen fibers.

"Now we can make synthetic collagen that’s longer than natural collagen," says Raines, who previously authored a paper in the journal Nature that demonstrated how to make synthetic collagen that is stronger than natural collagen. "We just don’t have to take what nature gives us. We can make it longer and stronger."

In medicine, synthetic human collagen could be used as "solder" to speed healing of large wounds. In the context of nanotechnology, collagen has appeal as a type of nanowire because it is thin -- thinner even than the vaunted carbon nanotubes hailed by nanotechnologists -- and long.

Coated with gold or silver, human collagen could form the basis of implantable electric sensors. By attaching certain biological molecules to the wire, it would be possible to create sensors that might, for example, quickly alert a diabetic to falling insulin levels. Similarly, equipped with molecules to recognize specific pathogens, such a sensor could stand perpetual guard in the body and provide instant warning of invading viruses or bacteria.

"We can have total control of what goes on these very thin extended fibers," says Raines. "We are able to build these molecules up one atom at a time and we can manipulate them in very precise ways."

The new Wisconsin study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, lays a foundation for bringing human collagen to the clinic, says Raines. But he notes there is still some work to be done to perfect the technology.

For example, while the new work enables the researchers to make collagen molecules that are long and strong, ways to precisely control the self-assembly of collagen to molecules of a specified size remain to be worked out, according to Raines.

Ronald Raines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.biochem.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona

nachricht Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>