Israel’s CollPlant has been named this year’s most innovative nanotechnology company by the Chief Scientist. The company was awarded the Product of the Year prize at last week’s NanoIsrael 2012 show for its work in developing collagen from tobacco using nanotechnology.
Collagen plays a major role in connective tissue and is used by the body to repair bones and joints that have broken. When a splint is applied to a broken bone and the two separated parts of the bone are joined, the body will usually produce enough collagen to complete the repair process. However, if part of the bone is missing, the body will be unable to replace or repair it. In those cases, artificial collagen will be applied to the break, with a scaffold holding the elements in place, allowing the body to use the inserted collagen to make the repair.
Generally, artificial collagen is made from materials extracted from cows and pigs, a less than ideal solution because of their genetic differences with humans. An alternative to bovine or porcine collagen human collagen harvested from corpses. Collagen can only be harvested from donors, so supplies are limited.
CollPlant’s solution allows the production of real human collagen — producing material that can be most efficiently used by the human body — without the need to rely on the dead. CollPlant’s technology inserts human collagen into tobacco plants that are raised in hothouses, ensuring that they remain isolated from the food chain. The bio-engineered plants mimic the natural synthesis of authentic human protein and produces procollagen, the natural precursor of collagen. The procollagen is collected from the plants and processed into CollPlant’s artificial collagen product.
“Tobacco has a big biomass, and it grows quickly; you can grow a six-foot-tall plant in under two months,” said CollPlant CEO Yehiel Tal. “The production process is easy to control using our technology. We know how much collagen there is in the leaves produced by the plants, and can regulate its strength. And tobacco leaves are big, so they hold lots of collagen.”
CollPlant has developed a number of products based on the technology, including a bandage containing a scaffold made up of Collplant-produced collagen, to treat acute and chronic wounds, ulcers, surgical wounds, abrasions, and second-degree burns. The product, called Vergenix, is currently being evaluated by the FDA, and a clinical test was recently launched.
Tal said that the company was “proud to have been recognized as a leading, groundbreaking company in the field of nanotechnology, and was happy to have been recognized for having the Product of the Year. Our technology allows for the production of human collagen from plant sources, and will allow us to develop a wide range of medical solutions to help repair and rebuild parts of the body that rely on collagen, such as skin, bones, and joints. There’s a huge market in this field, with hundreds of products that doctors can use for a variety of collagen-based uses. Our unique solution overcomes the disadvantages associated with other collagen sources.”
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