Collagen plays an important role in the formation of extracellular matrix (ECM) and development/migration of cells and tissues. Here we report the preparation of collagen and collagen hydrogel from the skin of tilapia and an evaluation of their potential as a wound dressing for the treatment of refractory wounds. The acid-soluble collagen (ASC) and pepsin-soluble collagen (PSC) were extracted and characterized using sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), circular dichroism (CD) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) analysis. Both ASC and PSC belong to type I collagen and have a complete triple helix structure, but PSC shows lower molecular weight and thermal stability, and has the inherent low antigenicity. Therefore, PSC was selected to prepare biomedical hydrogels using its self-aggregating properties. Rheological characterization showed that the mechanical strength of the hydrogels increased as the PSC content increased. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis indicated that hydrogels could form a regular network structure at a suitable PSC content. Cytotoxicity experiments confirmed that hydrogels with different PSC content showed no significant toxicity to fibroblasts. Skin repair experiments and pathological analysis showed that the collagen hydrogels wound dressing could significantly accelerate the healing of deep second-degree burn wounds and the generation of new skin appendages, which can be used for treatment of various refractory wounds.
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