NUI Galway researcher finds innovative method to analyse materials used in implants

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, Investigator at CÚRAM the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway, has published an innovative new laboratory method to analyse materials used in implants in the prestigious Nature Protocols, an online journal publishing peer-reviewed protocols from the leading laboratories in all fields of biological and biomedical science.

Dr Zeugolis, who is also Director of the Regenerative, Modular and Developmental Engineering Laboratory (REMODEL) at NUI Galway, and his research team have developed a ‘toolbox’ for the characterisation of a type of collagen found in mammals.

In vertebrates, collagen is the major component of connective tissues, for example making up 75% of human skin, 80% of the organic matter in human bone, 90% of human tendon and 90% of human cornea. It is primarily responsible for the mechanical integrity and specific function of these tissues.

This abundance of collagen in human tissues has triggered scientific research into its use as a raw material for the manufacture of medical devices or implants. Collagen type I is the most abundant protein found in the cell environment, and collagen type I tissue grafts and biomaterials are used extensively in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Speaking about the study, Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis from CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “Many studies for convenience or economic reasons, do not accurately determine collagen type I purity, concentration or solubility which can frequently result in incorrect conclusions in the laboratory.

“We have developed this protocol to provide a comprehensive, yet fast and readily implemented toolbox, for collagen type I characterisation in any biological specimen.”  

Despite the substantial strides in the extraction, purification and characterisation of collagen, issues with the quality of collagen produced, such as inconsistencies between batches, in both a tissue context and cell culture environment, remain a problem.

These inconsistencies can result in incorrect experimental results, which may lead to unnecessary preclinical testing and failure in clinical setting trials. Resulting in a pressing need for standardisation of procedures for the extraction of collagen to standardise quality and increase reproducibility of experimental results.

To read the full study in Nature Protocols, visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/nprot.2017.117

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