Synthetic protein to help regenerate new tissues

Washington: Scientists have thought up a new way to synthesize collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, for regenerating new tissues and organs from stem cells.

Natural collagen, widely used in cosmetic and reconstructive medicine, is a key component of many tissues, including skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and blood vessels.

"Our work is significant in two ways," said Rice University`s Jeffrey Hartgerink, who led the study, reports the journal Nature Chemistry.

"Our final product more closely resembles native collagen than anything that`s previously been made, and we make that material using a self-assembly process that is remarkably similar to processes found in nature," added Hartgerink, according to a Rice statement

The new material, which liquefies within an hour, has many of the properties of natural collagen and may come in handy as a scaffold (structure) for regenerating new tissues and organs from stem cells.

Biomedical researchers often use a combination of stem cells and collagen-like materials in a bid to create lab-grown tissues that can be transplanted into patients without risking rejection.

Animal-derived collagen, which has some inherent risks, is the form of collagen most commonly used in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery today. It is also used in many cosmetics.

Despite the abundance of collagen in the body, deciphering or recreating it has not been easy for scientists.

With an eye toward mimicking collagen`s self-assembly process as closely as possible, Hartgerink`s team spent several years perfecting its design.