Diabetes: Designer collagen may speed recovery from chronic wounds

Two scientists talk in a laboratory

Brooke Russell, a co-founder of ECM Technologies and an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology, is working to bring a new, bacterial-derived designer collagen to market.

Image: Texas A&M Health Science Center 

Chronic wounds are common in patients with diabetes and the costs for wound dressings are climbing. A need exists for a cost-effective dressing that decreases healing times and reduces pain. Research out of the Texas A&M Health Science Center may provide the answer: a new, recombinant designer collagen.

Founded on an initial discovery from researchers at the center’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology, ECM Technologies – a Houston-based biotech startup – is looking to bring a new, bacterial-derived designer collagen to market. Unlike mammal-derived collagens, the designer counterpart can be engineered to contain cues for specific, unmet biomedical needs.

Two of the institute’s researchers – Magnus Hook and Brooke Russell – are working to translate the discovery into a marketable product. They co-founded ECM Technologies in Houston in 2007. Hook is a Regents Professor, a Distinguished Professor and the holder of the Neva & Wesley West Chair. Russell is an assistant professor.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and serves as the major structural building block of most tissues.

Russell says, “A designer collagen could ultimately instruct cells to close a wound quicker than ever before because now we are able to genetically manipulate pre-set collagen cues.”

The designer collagen would:

* Be applied to the wound as a gel, with less disease risk than current animal-based materials available on the market today.

* Shape to asymmetrical wounds,

* Degrade over time to decrease dressing change pain,

* Resist bacterial adhesion.

* Be highly scalable, at a low cost.

* Could be used in outpatient clinics for chronic wounds, but could also be applicable for burns and surgical site incisions.

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