What is Collagen? The Glue Holding the Body Together

Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, accounting for around 30% of the protein content of the human body. It is often considered to be the “glue that holds the body together”.

Collagen is found in fibrous tissues such as skin, ligaments and tendons, as well as in the bones, blood vessels, the cornea of the eye, and in the gut.

Collagen is vital for strengthening blood vessels and giving skin its elasticity and strength. The degradation of collagen causes wrinkles and other skin issues. As a result, collagen is one of the most popular supplements among the elderly – because of it’s skin healing properties.

This Medical News Today information article provides details on the characteristics of collagen, its functions, the link between collagen and old age, and medical advances.

Characteristics of collagen

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Collagen’s triple helix structure

Collagen has very good tensile strength – it is one of the long fibrous structural proteins that gives cells structure from the outside, as well as supporting the majority of the body’s tissues.

As an amino acid, collagen is made from the amine (-NH2) and carboxylic acid (-COOH) functional groups. The main elements of collagen are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon.

Collagen contains three-stranded helical segments of similar structure. The rare abundance of the three amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, give collagen its triple-helical structure.1

The composition of collagen is considered unique given its high hydroxyproline content.

Functions of Collagen

There are over 28 different types of collagen. Collagen fibers give strength and structure to many different parts of the body. It is one of the main components of the extracellular matrix, which is the defining feature of connective tissues in humans and other mammals.2

Collagen is necessary for conserving the youthfulness of skin and attenuating wrinkles, it is also essential for the elasticity of the connective tissue of the skin, allowing it to expand and contract without damaging any tissue.3

Collagen and old age

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As we age the production of collagen begins to
slow down and wrinkles begin to develop.

When we get older, the production of collagen begins to slow down and cell structures start losing their strength.

As a result, skin starts to become fragile, less elastic and wrinkles set in. In addition, hair starts losing its color, joints lose their flexibility, and bone quality begins to deteriorate.

Millions of people worldwide seek out ways to stimulate the production of collagen when wrinkles start to show.

Injectable skin fillers are becoming increasingly popular for getting rid of the lines and wrinkles associated with aging.

According to a study published in Archives of Dermatology, injections with “dermal fillers” contain hyaluronic acid, which is thought to stimulate the production of collagen, restoring the structure of damaged skin.4

Medical advances

Treatment for heart disease – scientists found that collagen is able to transform from its rigid form into a more flexible state and then back again. Their findings have enabled scientists to develop drugs that can reduce the risk of heart attack by preventing collagen from rupturing in arterial plaques.

Gum healing – a novel method using bovine collagen has been shown to be able to enhance gum healing, according to an article published in the journal Head & Face Medicine.5

Arthritis – A strong and stable alternative to human collagen was developed by a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which could be used to treat conditions caused by collagen defects such as arthritis.6

Written by Joseph Nordqvist

Dr. George E Peck MD
776 Northfield Ave West Orange, NJ 07052
Phone: 973-324-2300 URL of Map