Research Highlight

Collagen from waste eel skin

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.123 Published online 9 September 2019

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad have extracted collagen from the discarded skin of marine eel fish1. Such collagen could potentially be used to make tissue scaffolds that can aid the growth and proliferation of specific human stem cells.

The eel-skin-derived collagen, they say, is a safer and better alternative to collagen made from other animal tissues as the latter are expensive and even contain pathogens.

For tissue engineering, collagen ‒ being porous, biocompatible and biodegradable ‒ is preferred to other materials. Collagen is usually extracted from bovine skin and tendons, porcine skin and rat tail, all of which can spread harmful diseases such as mad cow disease.

To find a safer alternative, the scientists extracted collagen from waste eel skin by treating it with acetic acid, common salt and pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein. They then prepared an ink mixing the collagen with a specific hydrogel.

The researchers, led by Subha Narayan Rath and Mano Govindharaj, used the ink to print tissue scaffolds through 3D printing.       

When specific human stem cells were grown on the scaffolds, small pores in the scaffolds facilitated nutrient transport, accelerating the growth of the cells.

Skin of eel and other fish are commonly discarded in coastal areas, where such wastes are broken down, generating organic matter that eventually reduce the oxygen levels in seawater.

The researchers say that the technique that helps prepare collagen utilising waste eel skin can prevent such waste generation and protect the marine ecosystems. 


1. Govindharaj, M. et al.Valorization of discarded marine Eel fish skin for collagen extraction as a 3D printable blue biomaterial for tissue engineering. J. Clean. Prod. 230, 412-419 (2019) Doi: 10.1016/j.clepro.2019.05.082