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Fish Scale-Facilitated Wound Healing : NTU Latest Study

While there are benefits associated with all animal collagen sources, fish collagen peptides are known to have the best absorption and bioavailability due to their smaller particle sizes compared to other animal collagens, making them antioxidant powerhouses. Bioavailability is highly important since it largely determines the efficacy of any nutrient you ingest.

While fish scale-derived collagen in its natural form already promotes wound healing, researchers at the Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have now taken it a step further.

They found a way to modify the collagen chemically to make it water soluble, potentially allowing it to hold drugs. In its natural form, the collagen dissolves only in acidic conditions, which could damage a drug mixed with it.

But with the modified collagen, scientists can, for instance, use it to package growth factors, such as vitamins or hormones, which stimulate the growth of living cells. This paves the way for wound dressings with “superior healing potential”, the team said yesterday.

Fish Scale-Facilitated Wound Healing : NTU Latest Study
NTU Singapore scientists have found potential biomedical uses for collagen derived from fish scales which are usually discarded. From left: Associate Professor Andrew Tan, research fellow Dr Wang Jun Kit and Assistant Professor Cleo Choong.

Applying collagen dressings to a wound to stimulate tissue growth can provide relief for a wide variety of injuries. Collagen dressings come in all shapes and sizes – gels, pastes, powders and pads. It can potentially treat wounds of all dimensions,” Associate Professor Andrew Tan from the NTU School of Biological Sciences said.

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Assistant Professor Cleo Choong from the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering said, “Currently, collagen is widely used for various biomedical applications. However, most of the commercially available collagen-based products are from mammalian animal sources such as pigs, cows and sheep. 

“Consequently, clinical application of these materials has been limited due to cultural and religious restrictions associated with these mammalian tissue-derived materials. In addition, more checks and processing have to be in place due to the risk of diseases that can be transmitted from mammals to humans.”

The study demonstrates how fish scales-derived collagen is so easily obtained as 200mg of collagen could be extracted from one or two fish, and the extraction process costs just over S$4. The research team partnered with a local fish farm that supplied the fish scales used in the study.

We descale and sell over 200 fish a day to wholesalers, restaurants and walk-in customers. If these discarded fish scales can lead to successful biomedical applications in future, it would be a good use of these waste material,” said the owner of KhaiSeng Trading & Fish Farm, Mr Teo Khai Seng.

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