What is collagen?
What holds complex organisms together? One of the principal answers is the rough, fibrous material known as collagen.1 Collagen consists of polypeptide chains of protein (Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Arginine), folded into a triple-helical conformation. It makes up 30% of the protein in the body, and up to 70% of the protein in the skin. Collagen ensures cohesion, elasticity, and regeneration of all our connective tissue. Collagen is like the ‘glue’ that holds us together.
Although once regarded as a more or less passive scaffold serving mainly to provide support for extracellular matrices, collagen is now acknowledged to have several additional physiologic roles. These include a role in morphogenesis and development, chemotaxis, platelet adhesion and aggregation, and cell attachment. Regardless of these and other potential subsidiary roles, the classic and most prominent function of collagen is the provision and maintenance of physical support for extracellular matrices.2
There are several types of collagen structure formations and five major types of collagen, each fulfilling a different role within the body. As we age, mutations in collagen can alter the expression or primary structure and function. As a result, this decline in collagen affects our connective tissue such as joints, ligaments, bones, skin, and even affects our gut health! Our modern eating habits and lack of movement also contribute to this collagen decline. Finally, cortisol released during stress also increases the breakdown of collagen. Decreased collagen can put us at risk for a number of health issues.
- Prockop, D. (1998). What holds us together? Why do some of us fall apart? What can we do about it?. Matrix Biology Volume 16, Issue 9, March 1998, Pages 519–528. [↵]
- Steffen Gay & Edward J. Miller (2009). What is collagen, What is Not, Ultrastructural Pathology 4:4. 365-377, DOI: 10.3109/01913128309140589. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0945053X98900646 Accessed June 2, 2016 [↵]