Qiaobing Xu was named a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts earlier this year, and will receive $240,000 over four years to advance his research. (Credit: Kelvin Ma)
The diagram above shows the fabrication process from tendon to scaffolding with nerve guidance conduits for nerve repairing. (Credit: Qiaobing Xu)
Collagen implants have long been used to help heal shattered bones, burns and other injuries. But there’s a problem: The protein’s tough, water-insoluble fibrils make it hard to work with. Because of this, it is typically broken down into a gel with acids or enzymes and then molded into desired shapes. Unfortunately, that wrecks the fibrils’ well-ordered weave, weakening the material and erasing surface features that convey guiding messages to cells. Reconstituted collagen is more of a dumb trellis than a smart guide for cell growth.