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BioCell Collagen is a brand name for a hydrolyzed extracellular matrix (ECM) of the hyaline cartilage (articular cartilage) of chicken sternum, which naturally contains collagen type II and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). It is different from hydrolyzed collagen also called collagen hydrolysate, gelatin, or gelatin hydrolysate, due to the presence of collagen type II instead of collagen type I and its co-presence of substantial amount of GAGs such as hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate.
BioCell Collagen is derived from the hyaline cartilage in the sternum of young chicken employing a hydrolysis manufacturing process. The process of hydrolysis involves not only breaking down the molecular linkages in the triple helix of collagen trimers called tropocollagen but significantly reducing the molecular weight (or molecular mass) of collagen monomers to short chains of polypeptides.
The hydrolysis process reduces collagen protein of about 200,000-300,000 Dalton (unit) (Da) into a profile of polypeptides having an average molecular weight between 1,500 and 2,500 Da. In addition, the molecular weight of GAGs such as hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate is also significantly reduced.
The amino acid composition of BioCell Collagen remains very similar to that of collagen type II because it is the predominant type of collagen in its source, the chicken sternal cartilage. BioCell Collagen contains 19 amino acids, with glycine, proline and hydroxyproline at relatively higher amounts compared to other proteins.
|Other amino acids||23.7%|
In addition to hydrolyzed collagen type II, BioCell Collagen contains a significant amount of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) such as chondroitin sulfate (approximately 20%) and hyaluronic acid (approximately 10%).
A bioavailability study in human healthy volunteers showed that the concentration of hyaluronic acid in the blood increased approximately 60 folds when 1500 mg of BioCell Collagen was ingested daily for 4 weeks.
The absorbability of hydrolyzed collagen was demonstrated in a mouse gut-sac experiment to be more than 90%. Radioactivity used to label hydrolyzed collagen was found to be deposited into the connective tissue such as cartilage and skin.
At least some portion of hydrolyzed collagen appears to be absorbed as peptides into the small intestine as human subjects who ingested hydrolyzed chicken cartilage containing hydrolyzed collagen type II and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) showed in the bloodstream a profile of collagen-derived peptides including proline-hydroxyproline dipeptide.
A published study reports that the oral intake of BioCell Collagen reduces joint discomfort. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) enrolling 80 subjects demonstrated that BioCell Collagen was well tolerated with no serious adverse event and led to a significant improvement of chronic joint discomfort. More studies need to be performed to confirm the observation.
A potential mechanism for the joint health benefit may be due to the stimulation of biosynthesis of collagen type II from the chondrocytes in the cartilage, where hydrolyzed collagen is accumulated.
A published study reports that the oral intake of BioCell Collagen reduces facial aging signs. A human study enrolling 26 ladies demonstrated that BioCell Collagen was well tolerated with no serious adverse event and led to a significant reduction of skin dryness and wrinkles from baseline.  An increase in collagen and blood circulation was also observed. More studies are needed to confirm the observation.
A potential mechanism for the skin health benefit may include the stimulation of biosynthesis of hyaluronic acid from the dermal fibroblasts. In addition, ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen was shown to increase the density of collagen fibrils.  The proliferation of dermal fibroblasts was stimulated as well. These data obtained from ‘’in vitro’’ and ‘’in vivo’’ animal studies are yet to be observed in human studies.
The connective tissue is found throughout the human body, including not only cartilage and skin dermis but ligament, tendon, bone, blood, and adipose tissue. Among these diverse tissues, collagen type I and proteoglycans (PGs), a multi-molecular complex of ‘core protein’ covalently attached with glycosaminoglycan (GAG) chains, are the major structural molecules for ligament and tendon and synthesized by fibroblasts in ligament and tenocytes (elongated fibroblast-like cells) in tendon, respectively. Molecular nature of BioCell Collagen and capability of hydrolyzed collagen-derived peptides to stimulate the cells in the connective tissue implies that ingestion of BioCell Collagen may be beneficial to ligament and tendon health. This potential health benefit needs to be tested in human subjects.
BioCell Collagen is made from a chicken by-product, the sternum cartilage. One safety concern is on the risk of contraction of avian influenza (avian flu or bird flue) virus. Its manufacturer, BioCell Technology, LLC, retains the health certificate issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that ascertains the absence of such virus in the product.
The cosmetic version of BioCell Collagen is called BioCell Collagen CG (cosmetic grade), and pending is its application for listing in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) database as Collagen Peptide Aggrecan Hyaluronate Copolymer. It is a yellowish to amber liquid containing hydrolyzed collagen peptides and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, and may be found in skin care products such as skin serum and cream.