Collagen is a protein made from cow skin. It is processed, mixed with the anesthetic lidocaine, and made into a paste that is injected into fine wrinkles. Collagen was first used in the late 1970s but did not become popular until it was commercially available in 1981. As a foreign protein, collagen is attacked and digested by the human body.
The body can become confused, making antibodies against the cow collagen and even the body’s own collagen. The result may be an autoimmune disease, such as dermatomyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma, in which one’s own collagen is attacked.
Collagen lasts between two weeks and six months, after which the injection must be repeated to maintain the effect. Under the microscope, we can see that the body digests the collagen within six months. Allergic reactions may result; therefore, the patient’s skin must be tested prior to the injection. One, or even two, tests are usually performed a month beforehand. Collagen is marketed by the Allergan Corporation under the names Zyderm and Zyplast. The average cost in the United States for an injection is about $400.
Cosmoderm and Cosmoplast
Cosmoderm is human collagen. It was introduced in 2003, in an attempt to decrease the allergic reactions to cow collagen. Made from human skin tissue that is grown in a laboratory, Cosmoderm, strengthened by the chemical glutaraldehyde, is not as thick as Cosmoplast. My major objection to Cosmoderm is that it is made from dead humans. There is no way to sugarcoat that fact. And there is no way to assure with total certainty that a disease will not be passed along from the dead donor to the recipient of the collagen. Still, infectious diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis, West Nile virus, or Cruetzfeld-Jacob disease (the human mad-cow disease) have never resulted from a Cosmoderm injection.
On the other hand, every type of tissue ever transplanted from one human to another has eventually been linked to infectious disease transmission. Hepatitis C has been passed along, even when the organ donor tested negative! Diseases that we can’t even test for yet might be in the tissue. There has been one death and at least two dozen serious infections from the transplantation of other types of contaminated tissue from one person to another.
In 2003 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a tissue donor had transmitted the hepatitis C virus to eight people. And there is no way to test for Cruetzfeld-Jacob disease. I worry about human cadaver materials causing disease in patients who simply want to look better. Diseases can be transmitted even after the most stringent testing.
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