Researchers have succeeded in producing a replica of human collagen from tobacco plants, possibly making the production of commercially produced collagen for use in surgical implants and many wound healing devices in regenerative medicine. Currently, commercial collagen is produced from farm animals such as cows and pigs as well as from human cadavers and are thus prone to harbor human pathogens such as viruses or prions and, in the case of human cadavers, may possesses serious ethical issues.
Producing human recombinant type I pro-collagen requires the coordinated expression of five different genes. Prof. Oded Shoseyov of the Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture has established the only laboratory in the world that has reported successful co-expression all the five essential genes in transgenic tobacco plants for the production of processed pro-collagen.
The protocol has been published recently in the journal Biomacromolecules and is already patented by CollPlant Ltd.