Scientists at Rice University in Houston, Texas have developed a new technique for creating synthetic collagen that could revolutionize the fields of facial plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery and reconstructive medicine. Unveiled last week and reported on the Science Daily website, the new collagen-production method and its potential cosmetic surgery applications caught the attention of Manhattan facial plastic surgeons. Project scientists at the Rice University BioScience Research Collaborative cautioned that the project is still in its early stages. Substantial additional research will be required to determine whether the synthetic collagen can be successfully substituted for human- or animal-derived collagen in medical procedures. Researchers said that if continuing research bears out initial indications, clinical trials of the synthetic collagen could begin in 5 years.
Explaining the significance of the new development to Science Daily, Rice University’s Jeffrey Hartgerink, the project’s lead researcher, said:
“Our work is significant in two ways. 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.”
A critical component of our skin and its underlying tendons, ligaments, cartilage and blood vessels, collagen is the human body’s most abundant protein; however, it has proved difficult to duplicate because of its complex, many-layered construction. The availability of synthetic collagen that could closely mimic human collagen could eliminate the immunological risks inherent in the current use of animal-derived collagen in cosmetic surgery and reconstructive facial plastic surgery. Natural-like synthetic collagen that would not be rejected by the body could also revolutionize the fast-developing field of regenerative medicine. In the future, researchers hope that their synthetic collagen will be able to provide a dependable foundation for the growth of transplant tissues and organs which could further revolutionize facial plastic surgery.