What Is the Role of Collagen in the Body?
Collagen is a type of protein that is found in animals and human beings. It is a multifunctional protein that is found in different parts of the body. It is also the most abundant protein present in the human body. There are different types of collagen in the body with the most occurring being types I, II,III and IV. These four types of collagen are found in over 90 percent of the body in tissues and structures including the skin, bones, tendons and ligaments.
The bones give shape and support to the human body. The bones are made up of three major components: minerals, organic proteins and ground substance. Organic proteins also known as collagen make up 30 percent of the bones. Type I collagen found in the bones combine with hydroxyapatite to give strength and resistance to the bones. A lack of collagen in the bones leads to diseases such as osteogenesis imperfecta where the bones become brittle and easily fractured.
The skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous tissue. The dermis is the thickest part of the skin and comprises of the papillary and reticulate dermis. The papillary dermis consists of fine fibers of type III collagen that make the skin pliable, while the reticulate dermis is made of the broad type I collagen and gives the skin tensile strength. Collagen gives the skin structural stability, resilience and durability. It is responsible for what the skin looks like. Absence of collagen in the skin causes wrinkle formation and a thin dermis.
People need muscles for involuntary actions like breathing and deliberate activities like movement and exercise. Thousands of individual muscle fibers combine to form the muscle. Each muscle fiber is covered by three layers of collagen. The innermost collagen sheath is the endomysium, followed by the much thicker perimysium. The epimysium is the last collagen layer surrounding a single muscle fiber. The collagen in the muscle helps it contract and stretch to transmit force, which can be translated into motion or more strenuous activity like lifting.
Tendons, Ligaments and Cartilage
Tendons link muscles to bones while ligaments link bones to other bones in the body. Cartilage is found at joints and in structures like the ears. The tendons and ligaments are made of collagen and so is cartilage. Type II collagen is found in cartilage, which helps reduce friction between joints and maintain the shape of structures like the nose and ears. Collagen gives the tendons and ligaments the ability to transmit force from the muscle and assist in the translation of this force to movement and other activities like exercise.
The dermis of the skin contains collagen. When the skin is broken or wounded, collagen is one of the factors needed to repair the wound and possibly return function to the wounded area. An orderly ensues when a wound occurs, and during this process, collagen deposition in the wound area is initiated. If too much collagen is deposited in the wound, the normal functioning and shape of the wound site may be lost. If too little collagen is deposited, the wound may not close up and could end up not healing properly.
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