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Characteristics of Collagen

Characteristics of Collagen

Your organs are held together by a dense network of tough, elastic protein fibers. The most abundant is called type-1 collagen. The strength of your skin, tendons and bones result primarily from the mechanical properties of these fibrous, connective tissues. Researchers at Genes and Disease say the characteristics of collagen that give it such a key role include stretchability and flexibility, strength and your ability to repair and replace it almost flawlessly throughout life in spite of its chemical complexity.

Stretchability

Collagen stretches rather than breaks under stress. Researchers reporting in a 2002 edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London detected the ability of collagen to stretch in a way that increased its stiffness, causing it to adapt to and resist further stress. This strength under stress makes collagen an ideal structural component of your body. The scientists also detected cross-links between the bundles of fiber that make up connective tissue. Cross-links allow neighboring fibers to share the loads applied to collagen structures.

Strength

Bioengineering researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology at the University College of London reported in 2007 in the Biophysical Journal that they detected a key strengthening feature in the microscopic structure of collagen. The collagen molecules, which are long and flexible, are aligned together in fibrils along the axis of aggregated bundles. This organizes collagen's long molecules into structures more like cables than a network of randomly aligned units. Scientists with the Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists reported in 2005 that collagen molecules are organized in a triple helix pattern, suggesting the strength of a triple-stranded rope.

Biochemical Compatibility

Specialists at Health Guidance.org confirm that collagen ages along with the rest of your body. The fibers become weaker and your body becomes slower at replacing it. Nevertheless, the process can continue well into old age following its normal structural principles. However, on rare occasions, your body may not recognize its own collagen. In rheumatoid arthritis, you treat it like a foreign substance, inflaming and weakening your collagen. This illustrates two opposite characteristics: collagen is immunologically invisible under normal circumstances but it can rarely become immunologically antagonistic to your body. Dietary collagen supplements are simply digested and never reach the collagen they are supposed to restore. But according to Health Guidance specialists it presence in your digestive tract may revive your body's ability to recognize and accept normal collagen characteristics, allowing some healing and rebuilding.

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