IIT-H team produces collagen substitute from eel skin waste; alternative seen as ‘promising’ for stem cell growth

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on August 27, 2019

Using the skin of the marine eel, scientists claim to have made a potential substitute for collagen, a common protein in the human body and a key component of connective tissues that make up several body parts.

The tissue scaffolds built using such collagen facilitates growth and proliferation of stem cells. In the near future the research can lead to the collagen emerging as an alternative to costlier animal-derived collagens, which are also associated with pathological diseases.

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IIT-H) believe that sustainable utilisation of discarded marine eel skin derived-collagen for biomedical application will help open an alternative path to convert waste into useful products, and spawn an industry therefrom.

Lead author Mano Govindharaj of IIT-H’s Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Laboratory, says: “Our team used a common marine waste product for producing collagen, a biomaterial that is extensively used in tissue engineering.”

The research team derived collagen from eel skin by treating it with acetic acid, common salt and pepsin. They combined it with alginate hydrogel and used a 3D printing process to obtain scaffolds. When the scaffolds were tested for stem cell growth and proliferation, the researchers found that the scaffolds allowed extensive growth of stem cells, thus making eel-skin derived collagen a promising material.

Eel and fish skin wastes are commonly discarded in coastal areas. This could lead to a chain of events due to breakdown of organic matter and reduction of oxygen levels in sea water, says co-researcher Subha Narayan Rath.

Present Collagen sources

Collagen is usually extracted from bovine skin and tendons, porcine skin and rat tail. Such sources are associated with several problems such as the spread of diseases. There are also constraints on religious grounds.

Extraction of collagen from non-mammalian sources therefore is a necessary alternative, the IIT researchers said and hence their focus. In addition, the exploitation of eel fish waste can lead to better waste management.

The research was funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Science and Engineering Research Board (DST-SERB), Government of India through the National Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme (N-PDF). The other researcher is Uday Kiran Roopavath. The paper was published in the journal Cleaner Production.

Published on August 27, 2019

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