Tilapia: A Fish that Will Heal Your Wounds

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience. [NOTE: THE RESEARCH PAPER UPON WHICH THIS ARTICLE WAS BASED WAS RETRACTED ON AUGUST 27, 2015]

The other use for tilapia.

Tilapia is best served with a side of French fries and cabbage, but scientists from Shanghai believe they have discovered an even better use: Collagen extracted from tilapia can be applied as a wound dressing that helps accelerate healing.

Collagen, a protein found in connective tissue which is produced by cells called fibroblasts, facilitates wound healing. Collagen from cows and pigs has been used previously, but the chance of disease transmission, in addition to religious objections, has prompted scientists to seek alternatives. The abundant supply of aquacultured tilapia (PDF) makes for an attractive substitute.

The researchers first analyzed the characteristics of collagen extracted from tilapia skin. Importantly, tilapia collagen did not appear to provoke an immune response. Furthermore, tilapia collagen encouraged the growth of fibroblasts and increased the expression of genes involved in wound healing. Thus, these experiments indicated that tilapia collagen is well-suited for regenerative medicine.

Finally, the authors made 1.8-cm-wide wounds on the backs of rats. The wounds were then treated with nothing (control), an algae-based wound dressing (Kaltostat), or tilapia (collagen). (See figure.)

As shown, the tilapia collagen was most effective at healing the wound.

The authors perhaps will seek to commercialize this research. If they do, however, they will face a tough marketplace. For instance, the company Eqalix, which uses a soybean protein to promote wound healing, has a head start of a few years. Currently, Eqalix is seeking FDA clearance for its product.

Source: Tian Zhou, Nanping Wang, Yang Xue, Tingting Ding, Xin Liu, Xiumei Mo, and Jiao Sun. “Development of Biomimetic Tilapia Collagen Nanofibers for Skin Regeneration through Inducing Keratinocytes Differentiation and Collagen Synthesis of Dermal Fibroblasts.” ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces7 (5), pp 3253–3262. 19-Jan-2015. DOI: 10.1021/am507990m

(Photo: Tilapia via איתן טל Etan Tal/Wikimedia Commons)