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Sources of Keratin

By Caroline Thompson ; Updated July 18, 2017

Keratin is a fibrous structural protein found in human skin, hair and nails. It is also part of the animal kingdom and found in birds, retiles, amphibians and mammals. It used in hair care products, animal feeds and fibers for textiles. The end use of the keratin is determined by the source of keratin fibers.

Animal Hooves

Keratin can be found in the hooves of animals. It can be scrapped off or boiled down and used in a variety of products such as glue and hair care products. Hoof adhesive is still used in woodworking. Boiling animal hooves for a prolonged period is the way glue is made, according to WoodBin, a DIY woodworking Web Site.

Powdered hooves are used as a nutritive agent in animal feed. A 1946 study by the Department of Biochemistry, College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison fed chickens and rats food that contained 30 to 40 percent powdered hoofs. They found that the animals feed the hoof-supplemented food had substantial growth.

Sheep Hair

A New Zealand company, Keratec, is using keratin from wool fibers for orthopedic, human tissue repair and consumer products. It uses a natural form of keratin called ‘Functional Keratin’ for biomedical uses. It also has a line of personal care products made from the wool fiber keratin. These include products for skin, hair, hand, nail, eyes and feet.

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Human Skin

Keratin is in human skin and a problem in labs and clean rooms. Keratin contamination, according to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is a constant battle in the mass spectrometry labs. To resolve the issue, lab coats and gloves have to worn at all times in the lab. This is because keratin from human skin flakes off easily in a natural shedding process.

Spider Webs

The keratin protein of the spider web is similar to silk worm keratin protein. Because of the low inflammatory potential of silk protein, spider silk can be used as sutures for eye surgery, artificial tendon and ligaments for knee surgery, according to North Carolina State University.

Silk

The silk protein is considered a b-keratin. Silk fibers are used in health care, foods, clothing and skin care products. Edible silk essence can absorb human amino acids, which makes it useful in the diet industry, according to Huzhou Aotesi Biochemical.

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