Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Are The Causes Of Collagen Degradation

Wrinkles can be caused by a loss of collagen.

According to an article on Medscape Today by Dr. Robert Diegelmann, collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. It is found in the connective tissue of skin, bone, muscle, tendons and cartilage, and without it we would literally fall apart. The basic structure of collagen is a triple helix made from three peptide chains. This is what gives collagen its elasticity and tensile strength. Because collagen is so important, its degradation and production are carefully maintained by our bodies. However, the Mayo Clinic warns that in certain situations collagen is degraded at a faster than normal rate.


According to Medscape Today, collagen is resistant to attack by most proteases. However, specialized enzymes called collagenases can efficiently attack the collagen triple helix. Many cells of the immune system, including macrophages, nucleases and osteoclasts can produce collagenase. Arthritis is a condition in which the immune system is in overdrive, attacking the joints of the body. Because these immune cells can produce collagenase, collagen degradation is common in arthritis sufferers


Cancerous cells are often invasive and develop the ability to travel to distant sites in the body. Research by Morgan et al., published in the online journal "Cancer Cell International," suggests these cancerous cells gain mobility by expressing collagenase. This allows them to break down the membranes of blood vessels, enter the bloodstream and spread across the body.

UV Light

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a form of radiation. It penetrates through the body and speeds up certain natural aging processes. According to the Mayo Clinic, UV light also breaks down important cross links that hold the collagen triple helix together, leading to collagen degradation. This causes skin to loose strength and flexibility and results in wrinkles.


When we grow, our bones must break down old connective tissue in order to form new, longer connective tissues. During rapid phases of growth, such as childhood, this is particularly important. Special cells called osteoclasts express collagenase for this purpose. Osteoclasts break apart old bone matrix in order to clear a path for cells called osteoblasts to lay down new bone.

Tags: collagen triple, collagen triple helix, triple helix, break down, cells called, connective tissue, immune system