It is fascinating how often modern scientific research working towards advances in medical care uncovers a new treatment which is in fact an old one. Sometimes ancient and traditional methods which may have been scorned as quack treatments turn out to actually work and their efficacy has a basis in fact rather than myth.
Now a new treatment for hard to heal wounds has emerged which draws on 18th century science.
Back in the 18th century doctors treated the wounds of the nobility with lengths of silk bandage known as court plaster. The bandage was soaked in a substance known as isinglass which was none other than piscean collagen or in layman’s terms the swim bladder of a fish. Fish inflates and deflate the bladder to increase and reduce buoyancy.
The treatment was discovered after the use of the material in the production of alcoholic drinks. Isinglass was and still is added to beer and wine to filter it and make it less cloudy. This actually makes the drinks unsuitable for vegetarians which may come as a surprise to many. The ability of the material to purify lead to it being used as an antiseptic but with the development of modern treatments the use of isinglass disappeared from medical practice.
Now it is set for a return as researchers are looking at its efficacy once more. Indeed isinglass has hit the headlines recently as a couple of patients whose wounds stubbornly refused to heal were treated with piscean collagen as a last resort and with spectacular results. The collagen possesses a tripple-helix cell structure which forms a natural scaffold for new tissue. The collagen is also biodegradable meaning that there is no danger of the tissue being pulled away when dressings are removed.
Such treatment is not yet universally available as it is still being researched but the indications are that this old form of antiseptic could prove to be a major advance in the treatment of wounds, burns and ulcers. The use of Piscean collagen could also reduce treatment costs and this prospect should make sure that the research continues. Sometimes you have to look back to move forward.
The good news for medical science could prove to be bad news for fish stocks. With so many species struggling, another reason to plunder the waters could be unwelcome unless carefully managed. The best source of the isinglass is freshwater carp and so if the use of piscean collagen reaches the mainstream there will be a greatly increased demand for the fish. I have visions of anglers frustrated at empty waters but if the situation is managed properly that eventuality should not arise.
In the meantime whilst sitting at the water’s edge waiting for a bite it is interesting to contemplate the healing properties of fish which is not something I have thought about before. I don’t fish but my partner does and when he sets off with his tackle all I ever think about is what I might be having for dinner. I have never been hoping for carp but now I am seeing these fish in a whole new light.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Sally Stacey is a keen writer with an interest in medical science and traditional remedies.