Consequential to its essential role as a mechanical support and affinity regulator in extracellular matrices, collagen constitutes a highly sought after scaffolding material for regeneration and healing applications. However, substantiated concerns have been raised with regard to quality and safety of animal tissue-extracted collagen, particularly in relation to its immunogenicity, risk of disease transmission and overall quality and consistency. In parallel, contamination with undesirable cellular factors can significantly impair its bioactivity, vis-a-vis its impact on cell recruitment, proliferation and differentiation. High-scale production of recombinant human collagen Type I (rhCOL1) in the tobacco plant provides a source of an homogenic, heterotrimeric, thermally stable "virgin" collagen which self assembles to fine homogenous fibrils displaying intact binding sites and has been applied to form numerous functional scaffolds for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In addition, rhCOL1 can form liquid crystal structures, yielding a well-organized and mechanically strong membrane, two properties indispensable to extracellular matrix (ECM) mimicry. Overall, the shortcomings of animal- and cadaver-derived collagens arising from their source diversity and recycled nature are fully overcome in the plant setting, constituting a collagen source ideal for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
Keywords: bovine; collagen; immunogenicity; rhCOL1; safety; scaffold; tobacco.