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New method yields synthetic collagen

Houston — Rice University researchers have developed a new method for making synthetic collagen, ScienceDaily reports.

The material, which forms from a liquid in as little as an hour, has many of the properties of natural collagen and may prove useful as a scaffold for regenerating new tissues and organs from stem cells, researchers say.

ScienceDaily quotes Jeffrey Hartgerink, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and bioengineering at Rice, as saying, “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.”

Dr. Hartgerink said that while it’s too early to determine whether the synthetic collagen can be substituted medically for human or animal-derived collagen, the first signs are encouraging. The enzyme that the body uses to break down native collagen also breaks down the new material at a similar speed.

Researchers must now determine whether cells can live and grow in the new material and whether it performs the same way as native collagen does, Dr. Hartgerink said, adding that any clinical trials are at least five years away.

The research appeared in the journal Nature Chemistry.

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