Collagen is a multi-functional cosmeceutical

From supplemental origins to today's GRAS-certified ingredient that is also finding applications in all personal-care applications, collagen just might be nature's most beautiful ingredient. Joosang Park, PhD, explains

Beneficial supplements for skin health are provided as diverse combinations of vitamins, polyphenols, micronutrients, and proteins or peptides. Generally, manufacturers are well equipped with expertise necessary to formulate these ingredients for topical application, the classical route of administration of active compounds.

Recently, increased attention has been paid to the physiological relationship between nutritional factors and the skin-ageing process. Corresponding to the trend, the healthy-ageing market has seen a robust growth in the so-called 'beauty from within' segment. In the foreseeable future, more customers are expected to look for nutricosmetic foods that improve skin health. Companies have been challenged to develop a healthy-ageing ingredient that can be either applied or consumed.

BioCell Technology introduced BioCell Collagen II as a dietary supplement into the healthy-ageing market in 1997. Various studies, including clinical trials, have supported that BioCell Collagen II can improve the health of the skin as well as the joints, likely because these functionally very distinct tissues build their unique dermal and cartilagenous networks employing similar structural building blocks, including collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) such as hyaluronic acid (HA) and chondroitin sulphate (CS).

Unlike typical supplements that can be a formula of multiple active ingredients, BioCell Collagen II is derived from a single, natural source, and this formulation has been modified to increase bioavailability.

Formulation challenges
The first hurdle in formulating with this ingredient was met with the development of a proprietary and patented manufacturing process that includes a hydrolysis step to reduce high molecular-weight collagen protein into very small (poly)peptides. The most direct benefit of this process is a substantial increase in the bioavailability of collagen, which is relevant to skin health because the amount of collagen as we age decreases, thus weakening the dermal collagen fibrillar network.

Later, this formulation innovation was found to be linked to surprising functional properties. Studies demonstrated that this process resulted in a unique profile of properties implied for both skin and joint health.

First, collagen-derived polypeptides have been shown to be efficiently absorbed and accumulated in target tissues, with the chondrocytes stimulated to synthesise collagen and proteoglycans, supporting cartilage regeneration. And, this so-called hydrolysed collagen has been demonstrated to increase collagen fibril diameter and density in the skin in concomitance with increased dermal fibroblast density.

Second, the other natural bioactive GAGs of BioCell Collagen II exist in very low molecular-weight forms. In particular, HA is essential for retaining water, which gives the moisturised and turgid appearance of young-looking skin. One study showed that ingestion of BioCell Collagen II led to rapid and significant increase in systemic HA bioavailability and, at a steady state, to a more than 60-fold increase in HA levels in human blood. Furthermore, this formulation process resulted in an intriguing biological property — inhibition of hyaluronidase, an enzyme the activity of which is responsible for HA degradation. Thus, it appears that the 'beauty from within' effect of BioCell Collagen II is synergistically enhanced by the combination of the maintenance of healthy, turgid dermal network and the inhibition of hyaluronidase that would otherwise break down HA and contribute to the unpleasant sagging and wrinkling of the skin.

Recently, BioCell Technology has developed a cosmetic grade of BioCell Collagen II entitled BioCell Collagen II CG. When the company came across the idea of converting the supplement into a cosmetic ingredient for topical applications, the biochemical nature of constituents in BioCell Collagen II posed novel formulation challenges. For example, it took technological innovations to remove the odour of the chicken-derived biomaterial and to make sure each functional component completely solubilised, all while maintaining skin health-related biological properties of the collagen ingredient. This cosmetic-grade version can be formulated with other water-soluble bioactive molecules.

Clinical trials that demonstrated the ingredient's efficacy as a supplement on various pain syndromes and chronic joint conditions have not shown any serious adverse events including allergies. However, the safety profile of a topical application is different from that of dietary supplements, and BioCell Collagen II CG has been subjected to other clinical testing to secure its safety as an anti-ageing ingredient for topical applications.

BioCell Technology can provide manufacturers a wide choice of a healthy-ageing ingredient, either dietary or topical. BioCell Collagen II can be formulated in the following four grades:

  • BioCell Collagen II (fine powder), for use in capsules and soft gels;
  • BioCell Collagen II TG (tablet grade), for use in tablets;
  • BioCell Collagen II TF (taste free), for use in beverages, chewables and functional food applications with the same beneficial
  • composition; BioCell Collagen II CG (cosmetic grade), specially formulated for use in topical applications. Dually soluble in lipid and water phase formulations.

Manufacturing methods have also been developed by which a collagen formulation may be customised to make a finished product enhance either skin or joint benefits. Also of note, formulation challenges are not constant because scientific revelation of novel biochemical and physiological properties of active molecules adds complexity, and because regulatory changes can call for new solutions.

Joosang Park, PhD, is vice president of scientific affairs at BioCell Technology. He holds degrees from Stanford University and Cornell University, and has served as research fellow on cancer-vaccine development at Harvard Medical School.

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