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The Purpose of Collagen

By Cheryl Jones ; Updated July 18, 2017

Collagen provides the scaffolding of the body. The protein is found all over the body, providing structure and support. As one of the main components of skin, maintaining and replacing damaged collagen is a major cosmetic concern. Little can be done to prevent collagen from breaking down with age, but techniques are available to replace the degraded protein and to stimulate cells to produce new collagen.

Description

Collagen is a fibrous protein found throughout the body, writes Eric F. Bernstein, M.D., on the website Patient’s Guide. Bernstein is an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The body contains 27 different types of collagen, each with slightly different roles. Collagen is composed primarily of two amino acids, hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline.

Role

Collagen is a type of connective tissue, providing structure, elasticity and support for tissues and organs, explains DocShop. Skin, bones, cartilage and tendons all contain collagen. Collagen is the primary component of skin, followed by elastin and glycosaminoglycans.

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Collagen and Aging

Collagen breaks down as the skin ages and sun exposure further damages collagen. Aging skin cells are unable to replace the damaged and degraded collagen. Skin sags as the structural collagen in the skin degrades, resulting in facial wrinkles and lines, reports the American Academy of Dermatology. Sagging collagen is most noticeable around the eyes, cheeks, forehead, mouth and jaw.

Collagen Replacement

Techniques exist to replace damaged and degraded collagen. Injections of filler collagen derived from bovine or human sources add structure to sagging skin and plumps wrinkles and lines, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. Injections may also plump thin lips for a more youthful appearance. Collagen fillers offer only temporary relief from lines and wrinkles, however. Collagen implants, which are strips, threads or hollow tubes, produce long-term correction for facial wrinkles. Collagen fillers and implants produce almost immediately noticeable results.

Stimulation

Skin cells may be stimulated to produce new collagen. Dermal stimulation procedures take time and require a series of injections over several months. With maintenance injections, the results may last up to two years. Foods high in the proteins lysine and proline may theoretically stimulate cells to produce collagen, but no clinical evidence supports the theory, says The World’s Healthiest Foods website. Animal proteins, such as from lean meats and low-fat dairy products, are the best sources of these proteins. Lysine and proline are also found in fish, legumes, wheat germ and egg whites.

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