Biomaterials developer Jellatech has announced a new milestone in the development of its 3D printable cell-based collagen bioink.
After two years of development, the company has successfully engineered a full-length, triple-helical and functional collagen made from its own proprietary cell lines.
“This is a major milestone for us and I am beyond proud and excited that we are already here,” said Stephanie Michelsen, CEO of Jellatech. “Being able to see our clean cell-based collagen with the naked eye – it brings happy tears.”
3D printing with collagen
Collagen is one of the most unique and abundant proteins in mammals found in connective tissue, skin, tendon, bone, and cartilage. It provides structural support to tissues and plays an important role in cellular processes like tissue repair, immune response, and cell migration.
Collagen’s properties have led to it being widely used across a range of industries, such as the biomedical, health, personal care and beauty, materials, and food and beverage sectors. However, due to the protein only being found in animals and plants many companies are looking for other novel and sustainable sources.
In regards to 3D printing applications, so far collagen-based bioinks have been engineered with the potential for tissue regeneration, to create breast implants for cancer survivors, and produce artificial cartilage for joint reconstruction, among other things.
Cell-based collagen bioinks have also been instrumental in the growth of the 3D printed alt-meat market, harnessed by the likes of MeaTech, Redefine Meat, and others
Jellatech believes it now has the answer to sustainable cell-based collagen production with the development of its new bioink, which it says could lead to further novel applications in the future.
Jellatech’s collagen bioink
According to Jellatech, cell-based collagen has a number of advantages over plant-based collagen. For instance, applications are limited for plant-based collagen bioinks as they are not able to provide the same function as animal-derived collagen.
“Collagen formation is a complex process that requires specialized machinery found only in mammalian cells,” said Christopher Gilchrist, Senior Scientist at Jellatech. “We’re working to harness the innate ability of these cells to produce collagen that is bio-identical to native collagen and do it in a sustainable and animal-free way.”
Avoiding animal slaughter completely, the company’s collagen production process works by taking small skin samples of animal cells lines which are then cultured in bioreactors in its lab. The collagen protein is extracted, purified, and filtered out through a series of process to form a collagen bioink that is bioidentical to the collagen extracted from animals.
Jellatech refers to its process as “100% guilt-free” due to bypassing animal slaughter completely, and sees it as a sustainable alternative source of collagen.
“We’re thrilled to see that our cell-derived collagen appears bio-identical to collagen derived from animals,” added Rob Schutte, Head of Science at Jellatech. “Because of this, we have a wide range of exciting applications from biomedicine to cosmetics to food and beverage.”
Convinced her firm’s cell-based technology is a step ahead of other collagen production technologies currently contributing to the global $8.4 billion market, Michelsen added: “It is becoming more and more evident that we need to change many of our existing practices and the way that we sustain our planet.
“This achievement just shows that we have a way and now we have laid to stepping stones for a sustainable future of protein production.”
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Featured image shows Jellatech’s pure, white collagen in powder form. Photo via Jellatech.