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Collagen is a type of protein. Fibrous in nature, it connects and supports other bodily tissues, such as skin, bone, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. It also supports the internal organs and is even present in teeth. There are more than 25 types of collagens that naturally occur in the body.
Collagen is one of the most plentiful proteins present in the bodies of mammals, including humans. In fact, it makes up about 25 percent of the total amount of proteins in the body. Some people refer to collagen as the glue that holds the body together. Without it, the body would, quite literally, fall apart.
Possessing great tensile strength, collagen functions in a manner that is very different from many other types of proteins. For example, it can be found both inside and outside of cells. Collagen fibers are important in contributing to the external structure of cells. However, they are present on the inside of some cells as well.
Collagen works hand-in-hand with elastin in supporting the body’s tissues. Basically, it gives body tissues form and provides firmness and strength; elastin gives the same body tissues much needed flexibility. This combination of collagen and elastin is very important in many parts of the body, including, but not limited to, the lungs, bones, and tendons. Even the blood vessels rely on both collagen and elastin.
Often, collagen is discussed in relation to the skin. It works with keratin to provide the skin with strength, flexibility, and resilience. As people age, however, collagen degradation occurs, leading to wrinkles. As such, it is an important substance for those looking for ways to fight the visible effects of aging on the skin. Some skincare professionals actually advise people on ways to stimulate the production of collagen in skin cells.
In addition to being so important in the body, collagen also has many medical uses. It is used in some cosmetic surgery procedures and is sold as a supplement created for joint mobility. It is even used in treating and managing serious burns. For this purpose, it is used in creating man-made skin substitutes.
Since collagens are so important within the body, it stands to reason that collagen deficiencies can be problematic. In fact, there are some genetic diseases that are associated with collagen deficiencies. For example, osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly referred to as brittle bone disease, results from a significantly decreased level of collagen. It can also result from the presence of collagen that is of lower quality than normal.