When Algenist launched the Genius Liquid Collagen with “vegan collagen” my first thought was, “What? Only animals have collagen!”
Well, you’re looking at a vial of collagen that has been produced by yeast.
Collagen is the main structural protein in animals, there are over 28 types of collagen. Type I collagen makes up about 90% of the collagen found in humans.
Collagen gives our skin its strength, flexibility, structure, and durability. Collagen is a triple helix, made of three coils of amino acids wrapped around each other. This coiled structure allows collagen to be stretched without breaking. Check out an earlier post I wrote about collagen for more information.
Plants and microbes don’t normally make collagen, but turns out they can! With some help from science, of course.
Vegan collagen is often produced from modified yeast and bacteria, scientists have been doing this for decades. Collagen can also be produced by modified plants, like the tobacco plant.
In one method, 4 genes that encode for the building blocks of collagen were added into a yeast’s genetic structure. The human genes were expressed in the modified yeast and they started producing the building blocks of human collagen type I. These building blocks were collected and treated with pepsin (a digestive enzyme), which assembled them into collagen and broke down any material that didn’t form properly.
Why make microbe or plant-based collagen? It’s often purer and it doesn’t rely on animals. Though it occurs rarely, animal collagen can cause foreign body or allergic reactions. Animal sources of collagen are fish, pigs, and cows.
Collagen is useful as a moisturizer for the skin, but also has medical applications. Collagen is used as a material for cosmetic filler, as carriers in drug delivery, as sutures, and as scaffolds for tissue engineering. Collagen can also be modified and used for neuron regeneration, blood vessel repair, bone regeneration, wound healing, and more!
M Nokelainen, High‐level production of human type I collagen in the yeast Pichia pastoris, Yeast, 2001. DOI: 10.1002/yea.730