Collagen makes up a third of the proteins in the human body. That’s right, it’s a whole THIRD of your proteins!
It’s no wonder that collagen is widely used in the medical field. And, with the technological advancements of modern medicine, collagen’s applications are increasingly more diverse.
From aiding burn patients to medical nutrition therapy, collagen protein is being developed and use to help mend almost any part of the human body. The list of medical uses for collagen protein is quite long - and might just surprise you.
13 surprising medical uses for collagen protein
There are so many medical uses for collagen protein that we couldn’t possibly list them all. Here - in no particular order - are 13 medical uses for collagen protein that you might find surprising.
1. May be used to treat malnutrition
It would seem that people in the United States and other developed countries have plenty to eat. But, many of us may actually malnourished. That’s because we aren’t eating the right things - or the things we are eating aren't being absorbed correctly.
Malnutrition doesn’t always mean skin-and-bones skinny. Sometimes, when we are deficient in specific vitamins and minerals, our bodies pull them from other areas - like our bones.
Since our body is working overtime to try and make up for the lack of nutrition it is receiving, collagen production slows down even more. To make up for that difference, doctors may prescribe collagen protein supplements to help a patient’s diet get back on track.
2. May help speed up wound healing
Malnutrition, pre-existing conditions, and surgery can also slow down your body’s natural ability to heal.
When collagen production is slowed because of a lack of nutrients or added stress to the body, healing a wound can take longer than usual. Even if you are young and healthy, wound healing can benefit from collagen protein as a supplement or dressing.
Consuming medical-grade liquid collagen as an oral supplement can help give your body more access to the collagen it needs to heal. This can help you create new cells and new collagen in the wounded area.
In some situations, doctors and nurses will also use collagen bandages in conjunction with liquid collagen supplements to help heal wounds. Providing the body with additional collagen gives you all the tools you need to start reconstructing damaged tissues.
Collagen dressings attract new skin cells (fibroblasts) to the wounded area, and promote tissue growth. Collagen dressings can also be applied to some burn wounds, but are generally avoided for 3rd-degree burns.
In cases of severe skin loss, skin grafts can be manufactured using collagen. Collagen solutions can also be used in combination with collagen dressings. Wounds such as bedsores, 2nd-degree burns, surgical wounds, and many others can benefit from collagen-related medical treatments.
3. May be used in cosmetic surgeries
Post-surgery treatment with collagen protein is especially common with cosmetic surgeries. Since collagen protein is widely theorized to increase fibroblast production, it may help heal surgical wounds and promote youthful-looking skin.
Although some cosmetic procedures reconstruct tissues after accidents or deformations, many are meant to tighten skin or enhance your natural beauty.
Introducing collagen to your diet, rather than applying it topically, after cosmetic surgery may speed up your post-surgery recovery and leave you with a youthful glow.
4. May be an effective form of medical nutrition therapy
Medical nutrition therapy is just what it sounds like-- addressing medical concerns using nutrition and diet. It is commonly used to treat diabetes or the early signs of heart disease. But, it can also be used to treat conditions like arthritis or injuries.
Collagen supplements may be recommended to a patient by their dietitian if joint pain is a common issue for them. Adding collagen to your daily diet may provide your body with the nutrients needed to direct more protein-building amino acids to problem areas like your joints.
Collagen contains 19 different amino acids, with a high concentration of proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. Individually, each of these amino acids can be beneficial, but only if taken in high quantities.
It is the combination of these three amino acids that helps boost fibroblast production and protein synthesis in our joints.
The combination of amino acids helps build up cartilage in the joint structure to provide cushion, comfort, and increased mobility in your joints.
5. Collagen can be used a bone graft substitutes
Just as collagen protein can be used for skin graft substitutes, it can be used to manufacture bone graft substitutes. Bioceramics can be used to repair and restore bone that has been damaged due to disease or trauma.
These bone graft substitutes act as a filler for the damaged area. And they also boost cell growth in the area where they are implanted. This targeted cell ingrowth is needed for tissue regeneration.
So far, collagen-based bone graft substitutes have been used for spinal recovery, dental work, and arm/leg bone repair.
6. Vascular prostheses
While you may have heard of prosthetic limbs, did you know that you can get prosthetic parts for your heart?
Usually, vascular prostheses are used to reconstruct and replace small-caliber vessels and arteries. In some cases, the vessels are replaced with a polyester tube, but medical researchers are searching for more effective materials.
Collagen-based vascular prostheses have the potential to be quite useful, and are undergoing testing.
Finding a way to make the replacement permanent and sturdy has been a challenge for researchers, which is why collagen-based vascular prostheses are generally used for smaller vessels.
Collagen protein is effective in the realm of cardiovascular health in general, though. Things like vascular grafts and vascular closure devices can also be manufactured using collagen cells.
7. Collagen can be used as dental plugs and membranes
As we’ve learned, collagen protein is often used to help our bodies heal. Our bodies naturally produce collagen to help tissues grow and develop, so adding in collagen may help promote new - and faster - cell growth.
In dental surgeries, collagen plugs can fill the cavity where the tooth used to be. This implanted collagen plug helps the socket heal and keeps it closed to prevent infection.
A dental membrane is a barrier that prevents your gums from growing into the bone cavity. When implanting a bone, soft tissue is needed in order to protect and cover the area. This is especially important in your mouth because of the possibility of infection and bacteria build up. So, a dental membrane barrier can be thought of as guided soft tissue regeneration.
8. Dermal fillers
Very often confused with botox, a dermal filler is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that improves the appearance of the skin. The main difference is that botox uses purified bacteria that freezes muscles, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Dermal fillers use ingredients, like collagen, to add fullness to areas that may have thinned with aging. Thinning of the skin that requires dermal fillers is most often around the mouth, cheeks, and on the lips.
If dermal fillers do not directly include collagen protein in the injection, they often include things like polylactic acid that stimulates your body’s natural collagen production.
9. May be used for hernia repair
Repairing a hernia requires that the area repairs quickly and effectively to prevent another hernia from occurring. When a patient is obese or has other underlying health conditions, hernia repair becomes even more difficult for surgeons.
To create a graft that could easily repair and heal a herniated area surgically, medical scientists have turned to collagen.
Biomedical engineering allows doctors to use collagen as a graft to treat hernias, allow for rapid recovery, and prevent infection.
10. May be used during breast reconstruction
Breast reconstruction surgery is used after breasts are removed due to a mastectomy. Many breast cancer patients choose to leave their chests bare, while others may opt for breast reconstruction surgery.
One way this is done is by using silicone implants, and the other standard option is called flap surgery.
While collagen may be used briefly in an implant reconstruction scenario, it is used more during flap surgery. The flap surgery uses the woman’s own tissues to reconstruct the breast mound. The tissues, like skin, fat, and muscle, are taken from various areas of the body like the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.
Using your natural tissue will not only feel more natural, but will also be easier for your body to accept. But because tissue is being moved and replaced, collagen is needed to repair it and integrate it back into the breast area.
For either procedure, it has become relatively common practice to surround the implant or flap surgery area with a thin mesh layer of collagen. The integration of a collagen layer has helped women avoid chest pain and weakness following surgery.
11. May be used for pelvic floor reconstruction
Some women may experience a pelvic floor collapse, which involves a loss of support within parts of the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Surgeons have discovered that bovine pericardium can be used to replace weak tissues during pelvic reconstruction surgeries.
The bovine pericardium is the membrane that surrounds a cow’s heart. Collagen is a large constructing element within the pericardium and provides the necessary elasticity for surgical use.
12. Collagen can be used as wound sutures
A suture is a stitch or a row of stitches that holds together a wound or surgical incision. A collagen suture uses cattle tendons that have been chemically treated and tested to fit industry standards.
Since collagen sutures are made from natural materials, they will dissolve over time.
So, as the body heals the stitched area, there is no need to return to the hospital to remove the stitches. They either dissolve entirely, or more likely, parts will dissolve, and the rest will fall off.
13. Collagen can be used as corneal shields
You can think of collagen shields as a contact lens bandage.
They are applied to the eye in the form of a contact lens, and eventually, they dissolve into the cornea. Collagen shields are most often used as a drug delivery system that is easy to apply during treatments.
Collagen contact shields are also used in the treatment of chronically dry eyes. Since the contact dissolves over time, it essentially liquifies, providing lubrication and relief to the eye.
Another use is as a protective layer after eye surgery. In addition to other bandages, the collagen shield further protects the eye from possible damage.
Since collagen has shown to be effective in wound healing, researchers are investigating the use of collagen shields in repairing damage to the eye tissues.
Collagen protein and its many uses
Your body has amazing natural healing capability. Whether it is tissue regeneration, or post-surgery recovery in general, your body uses collagen to heal.
While we produce collagen naturally, our collagen production drastically slows around the age of 25. So, having a bit of support doesn’t hurt!
To incorporate more collagen protein into your diet, you can try ProT Gold liquid collagen protein. This nano-hydrolyzed collagen protein is easy for your body to absorb and digest - so your body can work its healing magic.
Medical professionals and researchers are still finding new and exciting applications for collagen. As more studies are conducted, and more biomedical products are created, patients around the world will experience the medical wonders of collagen protein.