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Making a Better Wound Dressing — With Fish Skin

Fish protein could promote healing, scientists say

With a low price tag and mild flavor, tilapia has become a staple dinnertime fish for many Americans. Now it could have another use: helping to heal skin wounds.

In the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, scientists in Shanghai, China, have shown that a protein found in tilapia can promote skin repair in rats without an immune reaction, suggesting a possible future use for human patients.

Dr. Jiao Sun and colleagues explain that applying collagen — a major structural protein in animals — to wounds can help encourage skin to heal faster. But when the protein dressing comes from mammals, such as cows and pigs, it has the potential to transmit diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease.

Searching for an alternative source of collagen, the scientists turned to the ocean. Sun’s team wanted to test the potential of fish collagen as a more benign wound treatment.

The researchers developed nanofibers from tilapia collagen and used them to cover skin wounds on rats. The rats with the nanofiber dressing healed faster than did those without it. In addition, laboratory tests on cells suggested that the fish collagen was not likely to cause an immune reaction.

The researchers concluded that fish collagen could be a good candidate for clinical use.

Sources: ACS; February 11, 2015; and ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces; January 19, 2015.


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