New research unlocks medical potential of jellyfish biomaterial



NPL and Jellagen have published breakthrough data demonstrating the potential of collagen derived from jellyfish to support next-generation research and medical applications.

New research by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and biotechnology company Jellagen Ltd has revealed the potential of jellyfish collagen as the foundation for a range of new medical applications and to support new biological research.

Jellagen partnered with NPL to assist its development of the jellyfish collagen into a high-spec biomaterial product for use in healthcare.

According to the research findings, published in the October 2023 edition of the journal “Materials Today Bio”,  the biomaterial is shown to support the development of a range of human cells including stem, cancer and primary cells. It was also shown to support specialist biological functions such as firing synchronicity of neurons, stem cell differentiation and cancer spheroid formation.

Andrew Mearns Spragg, managing director and CSO of Jellagen, said, “Our collaboration with NPL has enabled Jellagen to access cutting-edge expertise in the analysis and characterisation of our collagen biomaterials.

“The collaboration has given us invaluable access to important resources to support our research ambitions and provide critical insights in scientifically establishing the concept of ECM Type 0 (zero) as the precursor of all matrices.”

The collaboration, which was initiated through the UK innovation agency Innovate UK’s “Analysis for Innovators” Programme, has provided a clearer pathway for ongoing product development and research by helping to explain the mechanistic behaviour of the collagen and also identify the optimal conditions to effectively manufacture products based upon it.

Most cells in human bodies need physical support to reproduce, communicate and form tissue and organs. Networks of proteins called extracellular matrices (or ECMs) provide this support by serving as scaffolds to house cells and enable the development of model tissue which more effectively mimics those in the body.

The importance of these matrices in tissue development has driven the search for a similar material to provide this “scaffold” feature for use in a range of medical applications – from hydrogels that promote tissue regeneration and organoids that mimic tumours: to 3D cell factories for engineering biology.

In response to this search, Jellagen developed a revolutionary biomaterial based on a jellyfish collagen ECM matrix that is more than half a billion years old and which has been consistently reproduced in other life forms over millions of years.

The jellyfish matrix resembles multiple matrix types found in various animals, from dinosaurs to humans. It predates all other matrix types but does not itself belong to one particular type. It has therefore been named as an extracellular matrix [ECM] type zero – that is, the original and first precursor to every other matrix that has come after it.

The research findings describe an extensive body of evidence for the performance attributes of the biomaterial to underpin a versatile pipeline of commercialised products under the collective name of JellaGel.

Max Ryadnov, NPL fellow in biometrology, added: “This has been an exciting collaboration in which we have learned a great deal and from the biomaterial as well. The interest in extracellular matrices in industry and medicine is significant and growing.

“Despite that, and the fact that there are many matrices under development, very few reach the stage of a finished product, let alone a product manufactured at scale. We are very pleased to have played an important role in the development of this pioneering and versatile product.”

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