Scientists create super-strong collagen

January 12, 2010 by Nicole Miller

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has created the strongest form of collagen known to science, a stable alternative to human collagen that could one day be used to treat arthritis and other conditions that result from collagen defects.

"It's by far the most stable ever made," says Ron Raines, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of chemistry and who led the study, published in the Jan. 12 issue of the .

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, forming strong sheets and cables that support the structure of skin, internal organs, cartilage and bones, as well as all the connective tissue in between. For decades, doctors have used collagen from cows to treat serious burns and other wounds in humans despite the risk of tissue rejection associated with cross-species transplants.

In 2006, Raines' team figured out how to make human collagen in the lab, creating collagen molecules longer than any found in nature. Now, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the researchers have taken this line of inquiry one step further, creating a form of super-strong collagen that may one day help millions. Raines says this artificial collagen holds promise as a therapy for conditions such as arthritis, which is caused by a breakdown of the body's natural collagen and affects more than 46 million Americans.

To make the new form of collagen, Raines' team substituted two-thirds of the protein's regular with less-flexible versions that stiffened the overall structure of the protein and helped it hold its form. "The breakthrough of this approach was the use of rigid analogues that have shapes similar to [the shapes the natural amino acids take] in the folded, functional form of the protein," explains Raines.

The resulting collagen holds together at temperatures far above what it takes for natural collagen to fall apart. And although it's built largely from amino acids that aren't found in nature, X-ray crystallography confirms that the three-dimensional structure of the lab-made collagen is indistinguishable from that of natural collagen, according to UW-Madison bacteriologist Katrina Forest, a co-author of the study.

"This hyper-stable collagen is really a testament to the power of modern protein chemistry," says Raines.

Explore further: Research reveals structure and behavior of collagen

More information: www.pnas.org/

Related Stories

Research reveals structure and behavior of collagen

February 26, 2008

The structure and behavior of one of the most common proteins in our bodies has been resolved at a level of detail never before seen, thanks to new research performed at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department ...

Another new wrinkle in treating skin aging

June 5, 2008

Topical applications of a naturally occurring fat molecule have the potential to slow down skin aging, whether through natural causes or damage, researchers report.

Recommended for you

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

New polymer able to store energy at higher temperatures

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at the Pennsylvania State University has created a new polymer that is able to store energy at higher temperatures than conventional polymers without breaking down. In their paper published ...

How to look for a few good catalysts

July 30, 2015

Two key physical phenomena take place at the surfaces of materials: catalysis and wetting. A catalyst enhances the rate of chemical reactions; wetting refers to how liquids spread across a surface.

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jscroft
1 / 5 (2) Jan 12, 2010
Now if only we could genetically engineer the body to produce this stuff instead of the regular kind...
El_Nose
1 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2010
@iscroft -- ahh yeah if you want skin tougher than leather and why use lotion to soften your hands when there is no noticable differnce. Going in to fast for a kiss might now cause bruising.. no wait your new tougher upper lip can take it. But you have to exercise your hands regularly to keep your muscles in shape for bending your fingers.

Don't mess with perfection... this is to treat imperfections.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.