Collagen is a protein molecule found in the human body. It plays an important structural role in many tissues and is the most abundant protein in the body. In the muscles, bones, tendons, and skin, the function of collagen is to hold everything together. Naturally, a lack or depletion of collagen in the body is part of the aging process and can also signal various health conditions.
The Source and Structure of Collagen
Collagen is vital for the body’s connective tissue and makes up around 30 percent of the human body’s protein content. In terms of molecular structure, like all proteins, collagen is made up of smaller sub-particles known as amino acids. In collagen, these amino acids are wound together in the form of a triple helical structure in long molecules.
Collagen in the body is mainly found in the fibrous tissues, and the name originates from the Greek word meaning glue. Scientists have found that there are actually several different types of collagen. The classification is based on the type of structures that the protein forms. Collagen can be fibrillar or non-fibrillar. The most prevalent type is Type I, which accounts for greater than 90 percent of all collagen in the body. Types II through to V are also more common.
The source of this vital protein is the body itself. Collagen synthesis occurs both inside and outside the cells. Using information from the DNA sequence, the helical collagen structure is put together. Two of the amino acids used are proline and glycine. The synthesis process is complex and multistep, and this gives collagen its characteristic strong and elastic structure.
Important Functions in the Body
The different types of collagen are found in particular structures in the body. The role of collagen is to hold everything together. The most prevalent, Type I, is found in the organic component of bones, in the skin, organs, and tendons. Type II collagen is found in cartilage. Type III is found in reticular fibers, Type IV is found in the basal lamina, and Type V is found in the hair, cell surfaces, and the placenta.
Collagen also finds its use as an important substance in medicine. It is used in cosmetic surgery, bone grafts, tissue regeneration, cardiac applications, reconstructive surgery, and in wound care. As a natural substance, it is a perfect fit for these applications in the body. It can also be derived from other animal sources and combined with some synthetic substances, depending on the function required.
Collagen Deficiency and Treatment
Collagen deficiency and related diseases can result from dietary deficiencies, genetic disorders, as well as any process that affects the production of collagen in the body. There are a number of genetic disorders that affect the collagen gene, and one example is Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. As a person ages, the collagen in the skin begins to degrade, and this leads to the formation of wrinkles.
Many people are looking to add some collagen to their body. This could be due to insufficient production in the body or to slow down the effects of aging. Taking collagen supplements can improve the look and elasticity of the skin. It also improves bones and muscle functions.
Today, it’s easy to get most supplemental nutrients over the counter. Collagen supplements are available for those who need them. They may come in various forms, including enhanced food items, in drinks, and as a pure supplement. Collagen supplements are usually made from collagen that has been broken down, or hydrolyzed, into its smaller components. Before picking any one supplement or collagen-enhanced food item, its useful to know how much collagen is contained and the potential benefits.