Have you ever heard of collagen? In the areas of sports and nutrition, but also and above all in the areas of cosmetics and health products, collagen and its fibers are increasingly on everyone's lips.
As a true component of many organs and parts of the human body, these fibers are increasingly being incorporated into cosmetic preparations to benefit from the benefits that collagen already brings naturally to us humans. Resistance to torsion, pressure and tension, liveliness, healing, good constitution are just a few points that collagen has a positive influence on.
the essentials in brief
- Collagen fibers are the main components of connective tissue and are a human self-produced protein.
- The large collagen family consists of 29 proteins. Each collagen type has its own more specific use. However, in general, the primary role of collagen fibers is to help shape the body, provide the greatest resistance to stretching, and heal wounds/inflammation.
- Collagen can be linked to various diseases when a collagen type is deficient or some genes transform. The substance collagen is used in industry mostly for gelatine, in biochemistry as a medicine packaging and for cosmetic care.
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Glossary entry: The term collagen fibers explained in detail
In order to provide you with as much information as possible about collagen fibers, we have collected and answered all important and frequently asked questions on this topic here.
This way you can inquire about or stay up to date on all of this, because what is more important than what concerns your health and the health of your family and friends?
What are collagen fibers?
The matrix of connective tissue consists mainly of fibers. Among these fibers are mainly collagen fibers. (7)
These look whitish to the naked eye. But even under the microscope you can see that they are organized in bundles of wavy fibers, some of which run parallel to each other without branching. (8th)
The word collagen comes from the Greek "kolla" for glue and "gennan" for to produce. (14) (Image source: Arthur Lambillotte / Unsplash)
The collagen protein family contains at least 19 proteins that are formally defined as collagens and 10 other proteins that have collagen-like domains. (3)
This substance is mostly in fibrillar form, which is why it is also referred to as collagen fibers. It consists of long chains of amino acids, the building blocks of all proteins, which wind in three parts to form triple helixes, which in turn bind together to form fibers. (2)
Collagen is an essential human-made protein. (2)
The combination of the amino acids glycine - proline - hydroxyproline is decisive for the structure of collagen. It is this combination, repeated over and over with or without variations, that produces the triple helical shape of the procollagen. (9)
Procollagen is converted into tropocollagen, the latter forming a primary thread when clumped together. Finally, several primary filaments combine to form collagen fibrils, and several of these ultimately form the collagen fiber bundle. (9)
Collagen belongs to a family of so-called structural proteins, which are peculiar to humans in particular and are to be distinguished from the functional proteins, the second category of proteins. (2) Structural proteins are so named because they shape organisms by contributing to their structure. Among them, collagen is particularly well represented. This fibrous protein is by far the most abundant in all mammals, making up 25-35% of all their proteins and about 5% of their total mass. (1,4,5)
The molecular weight of collagen is 300 kDa. (5)
More specifically, this fibrous structural protein consists of a right-handed bundle of three parallel and left-handed polyproline II-type helices.
Where are collagen fibers located?
They are present in the extracellular matrix, i.e. outside the cells that secrete them in the connective tissue of the animals. In this we actually understand all mammals, i.e. both humans and animals such as pigs and many others. (5)
Because it is the most abundant protein in animals, accounting for a quarter of mammalian protein mass, collagen fibers are recognized as being implanted almost everywhere:
- in the bones (5.6)
- in the teeth (10)
- in cartilage (5.6)
- in the pulmonary interstitium (the supporting tissue of the lungs) (5)
- in the muscles (5)
- in the tendons (4.6)
- in the ligaments (4,6)
- in the skin (4.6)
- in the cornea (10)
- in the walls of blood vessels (1,4,5)
What types of collagen fibers are there?
There are different types of collagen, 29 in total, all differing in the structure of their molecular chain. (8) The table below lists some of the collagen types, the most important of which range from Type I to Type IV. (8th)
There are different types of collagen, depending on the organ in question.
|Type I collagen||It is the most common type of collagen. In fact, they are found in the healing wounds and everywhere (90%) in fibrillar form in the body, be it in the bones, teeth, cartilage, muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin , in the cornea and in the blood vessels. (4,5,6,8)|
|Type II collagen||It forms 50% of all cartilage proteins and also occurs in the vitreous in fibrillar form. (4,5,6,8)|
|Type III collagen||In fibrillar form, it can be found in the cornea and normal subcutaneous tissue, in muscles, blood vessels, the uterus, hair and internal organs. In addition, collagen type III is incorporated into granulation tissue earlier in the wound before collagen type I is later synthesized. (4,5,6,8)|
|Type IV collagen||It is a component of the eye lens, capillaries, kidney and basal lamina. (4,5,6,8)|
|collagen type V||Also found in fibrillar form in the interstitium and placenta and other tissues, Type V works in concert with Type I. (4,5,6,8)|
|Type VI collagen||Type VI is also often associated with type I collagen and serves to maintain the integrity of various tissues (4,5,6)|
|Type VII collagen||Assembles into fibrils for fixation of dermal and epidermal skin membranes (4,5,6,8)|
|Type IX collagen||It is mostly localized in cartilage and functions in tissues with type II and XI collagen fibrils. (4,5,6)|
Summing up and regarding the main types of collagens, namely from I to IV, we can state that:
- Collagen type I is particularly voluminous and is therefore found in bones, tendons, skin and in the dentine of the teeth. (9)
- Type II collagen is thinner and is mainly found in cartilage, intervertebral discs and the vitreous body of the eye. (9)
- Type III collagen is among the thinnest of all and is found primarily in smooth muscle, lymphoid tissue and bone marrow. (9)
- Unlike the other types of collagen mentioned above, Type IV collagen is non-fibrillar and is therefore found in the basement membrane and outer lamella of the lens capsule. (9)
However, all of these collagen derivatives unite to form tropocollagen. (8th)
What are the roles of collagen fibers in the body?
In general, the primary role of collagen is to contribute to the structure of the organism. In fact, collagen has the property of being inextensible and therefore resistant to tension, unlike elastin, which is also present in connective tissue. (5)
These fibrous proteins provide tissues with mechanical resistance to stretching. (1) Collagen fibers are indeed very resistant to stretching and tension. (8th)
A tendon composed mainly of collagen fibers has a tensile strength of 500 to 1000 kg per cm2. (8) This goes from the average weight of a full grown bull to that of a classic car!
This is due to their corrugated nature, which gives them malleability and purposeful mobility. (8th)
So you understand the role of collagen fibers in muscles. They enable resistance and endurance during resistance training. In particular, they impart firmness and elasticity to mammalian skin. (2)
In addition, special collagen fiber types are responsible for more specific functions:
Collagen fibers are particularly indispensable for the healing process, for example. (5) Type I and IV collagens play a crucial role in the regulation of inflammation and tumor progression. (11)
What is collagen used for in industry?
From an industrial and economic point of view, collagen is the raw material for the production of gelatin. (5) In addition, collagen-based hydrogels are being investigated, particularly for biomedical applications such as packaging and delivery of drugs and "tissue engineering". (12)
Collagen is also being studied for its rejuvenating properties, particularly on the skin and hair, and for this reason its incorporation into cosmetic care is becoming more widespread. (5)
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What diseases are associated with collagen?
It should be noted that many diseases are associated with defects in collagen synthesis. Certain collagen genes can be the cause of connective tissue pathologies and in particular of the skin. Those encoding type V, for example, are destined for mutations that result in classic Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a disease that primarily affects the skin and dermal structure, in which the skin and joints become particularly extensible. (13.10)
In addition, changes in the state of type I collagen, for example, can lead to osteogenesis imperfecta or even to brittle bone diseases. In this case, the severity of the disease depends on the extent of the mutation, but lethality cannot be ruled out. (5.10)
Finally, in type IV, a hereditary abnormality of collagen fibers can be the cause of a kidney infection called Alport syndrome, which affects approximately one in 7500 people and four out of five in men. The consequences range up to kidney failure. (6)
So, collagen fibers are essential parts of the whole body and play many roles: resisting stretch and traction in muscles, skin, etc., shaping anatomy in bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, etc., as well as being involved in many organs such as lungs, eyes, etc.
Likewise, collagen has useful characteristics for the industry because of its rejuvenating properties and its more or less elastic texture.
Although the family of collagen types is large (29 "derivatives"), the main ones range from I to IV and are found in different parts of the body with their own specificities and uses. Likewise, each collagen type has its own weaknesses and associated potential diseases, some even with serious consequences.
- Di Lullo GA, Sweeney SM, Korkko J, Ala-Kokko L, San Antonio JD. Mapping the ligand-binding sites and disease-associated mutations on the most abundant protein in the human, type I collagen. J Biol Chem. 2002;277(6):4223-4231.
- The Economist. (2017, August 24). Leather grown using biotechnology is about to hit the catwalk.
- COLLAGENS: Molecular Biology, Diseases, and Potentials for Therapy Darwin J. Prockop and Kari I. Kivirikko Annual Review of Biochemistry 1995 64:1, 403-434
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- Pasco, S. (2017, April 4). Effects biologiques de peptides des collagenes I and IV | Biology Aujourd'hui. biology journal.
- Biomedical hydrogels. (2005, January 1). ScienceDirect.
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- GmbH, KLM (no year). Where does collagen come from | Word origin of collagen | know.de. Konradin Medien GmbH, Leinfelden-Echterdingen.