The strongest form of collagen known to science has been created by scientists. This is a stable alternative to human collagen that could one day be used to treat arthritis and other conditions that result from collagen defects.
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.
"It's by far the most stable collagen ever made," said Ron Raines, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of chemistry and biochemistry who led the study.
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 said that 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.
The research has been published in the Jan. 12 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.