Collagen is basically a protein comprising amino acids, which are again made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. Collagen encloses specific amino acids, including arginine, glycine, hydroxyproline and proline. Collagen comprises about 30 percent of the entire proteins present in our body. They have tough as well as strong structures and are present throughout the body, especially in ligaments, tendons, and bones.
Precisely speaking, collagen is a form of protein and has a fibrous nature. This type of protein connects as well as supports several other tissues in the body, for instance the skin, cartilage, bone, muscles and tendons. In addition, collagen also supports various internal organs. This type of protein is also present in our teeth. There are over 25 different forms of collagens that occur naturally in our body.
Among all proteins found in the mammals, including humans, collagen is said to be present in most abundance. According to some, 25 percent of all proteins in the human body is collagen. A number of people describe collagen as the adhesive that binds the body together. In the absence of collagen, our body would literally disintegrate.
Collagen possesses immense tensile strength and, hence, it works in a very different manner from all other forms of proteins in our body. For instance, collagen is present both within as well as outside the cells. The fibrous nature of collagen is vital for the cell's external structure. At the same time, it is also present inside the cells.
Collagen functions in tandem with elastin while supporting the various tissues in our body. This type of protein not only gives form to the body tissues, but also makes them firm and strong. At the same time, elastin provides the same tissues of the body with the necessary flexibility. The combination of elastin and collagen is extremely vital for several parts of our body. These include the tendons, bones and lungs. In addition, there are other body parts where this combination plays a vital role. For instance, our blood vessels also depend on elastin and collagen.
Usually, whenever we discuss skin, we also talk about collagen. Our skin and collagen have a very close relation. Collagen works together with keratin to provide the skin with flexibility, strength and endurance. However, as people become older, there is a degradation of collagen resulting in the appearance of fine line and wrinkles. In fact, collagen is a very valuable substance for people who are trying to find new means to combat the visible signs of growing old of the skin. A section of dermatologists as well as skincare professionals counsel their clients on various ways to promote collagen production in the skin cells.
Aside from being very valuable for our body, collagen also has several therapeutic uses. This protein is used in a number of cosmetic surgery processes and also available commercially in the form of a supplement meant for facilitating joint mobility. In addition, collagen is also used to treat as well as deal with severe burn injuries. Collagen is used for producing synthetic skin substitutes for the above mentioned purposes.
As collagen plays an extremely vital role in our body, there is much reason to believe that any deficiency of this type of protein can result in several problems. For instance, osteogenesis imperfecta, which is commonly known as brittle bone disease, is caused when the collagen level decreases considerably. In addition, this condition may also occur even in the presence of adequate collagen, especially when the quality of this type of protein in the body is below par.
Collagen has several uses in our body. This protein is naturally occurring and can be reabsorbed as well as functionally diverse. When we say collagen can be reabsorbed by the body, we mean that it can be broken down and subsequently assimilated again. Moreover, collagen has various different therapeutic applications and it can also be employed using various medical devices. At the same time, collagen can be created as compressed solids or gels like lattice, when the protein is prepared for medical use. From the clinical point of view, this makes collagen very versatile.
Medically used collagen can be obtained from several different sources, including humans, ovine, porcine and bovine.
Administering collagen in the form of injections can help to enhance the skin contours and fill the depressions on the skin surface. It can also be employed cosmetically to get rid of the different lines and wrinkles on the face. It is also useful for removing scarring, counting acne, provided the scars are devoid of sharp edges.
Collagen fillers can also be obtained from different sources, such as bovine and human. However, collagen injection is not suitable for everyone. This is strictly prohibited for people with severe allergies. Prior to using bovine collagen, it is necessary for the receiver to undergo skin tests.
Collagen is also utilized to fill up somewhat superficial flaws on the skin. On the other hand, if the defects are more extensive, they are generally filled using substances like implants, silicone and fat.
When used for healing wounds, collagen draws new skin cells to the place of the wound. In addition, it also facilitates healing and provides with a novel platform for new tissue growth. Hence, collagen dressings are employed with a view to promote healing of specific types of wounds. These particular types of wounds include exuding wounds, chronic wounds that do not heal easily, second-degree burns, necrotic or granulating wounds, partial as well as full-thickness wounds, sites where there have been skin grafts or received skin donations.
However, use of collagen dressings is not recommended for third-degree burns, in case of patients who are potentially vulnerable to bovine products and wounds that are covered in dehydrated eschar.
Implant and periodontal therapy have commonly used membranes based on collagen with a view to encourage specific cell growths. In the case of oral surgery, it is possible to use barriers to avoid the gingival epithelium cells, which have rapid growths, from wandering to any injury in a tooth, thereby maintaining space for the potential regeneration of the tooth. Aside from the healing attributes of collagen, using collagen-based membranes is beneficial, as they possess the aptitude to be re-absorbable. In other words, over a period of time, our body breaks the collagen and subsequently absorbs this protein again. This is also useful from the point of view that patients who use collagen membranes during an oral surgery do not have to undergo surgery again just to get the barrier removed.
Use of collagen formulations or supplements may be useful for treating osteoarthritis. Several trials undertaken with these have shown to benefit people with the condition. At least they have been able to alleviate pain to some extent. Nevertheless, some other trials showed that using collagen formulations and supplements has not been of any additional benefit to people enduring osteoarthritis.
A review undertaken in 2006 has discovered that collagen hydrolysate has also helped to lessen the painful symptoms related to osteoarthritis significantly. It was found that it also helped to improve the functioning of the affected joints. The review found that collagen hydrolysate was also absorbed well by the body. In addition, it resulted in the build-up of collagen in cartilage, thereby facilitating the stimulation of specialized cells in chondrocytes, a particular type of joint, to generate additional cellular matrix.