Collagen and Cartilage
Joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and even bone are made up
of the protein, collagen. Collagen is a resilient and strong protein,
whose structure determines joint, tendon and bone health.
When collagen is weak, brittle or soft it causes dysfunction and
susceptible to the inflammatory process, which defines arthritis.
This weakness is due to the loss of proteoglycans in collagen.
Cartilage is a strong and flexible material due to the presence
of collagen. When cartilage is situated between two bones it is
known as articular cartilage. Articular cartilage is the material
that covers the heads of bones in a joint and prevents them
from rubbing against each other. It is also the site of wear and
tear erosion.
Articular cartilage is a form of connective tissue composed
exclusively of cartilage cells (chondrocytes) and a highly
specialized organic matrix. The extracellular matrix surrounds
the chondrocytes to provide support. The matrix is solid, firm
and pliable. These characteristics account for cartilage’s special
resiliency. Cartilage is thus well constructed to provide a weightbearing
capacity at points of movement.
The primary protein of the cartilage matrix is collagen.
Collagen fibrils are bathed in a ground substance of chondroitin
sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and core proteins to form proteoglycans.
Proteoglycans contain high molecular-weight polymers of
modified and sulfated sugars. Other glycoproteins cross-link the
collagen fibrils providing strength to the overall tissue.
The study of these compounds and their effect on health is
known as glycomics or glycobiology. To best understand how to
prevent arthritis, an understanding of glycobiology is presented in
the following pages