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Periarticular Ligamentous Tissue: A Biochemical and Physiologic Assessment-Collagen in Tendons and Ligaments

Collagen is the major protein in ligaments and tendons, and it is not a single entity. It is the single most abundant animal protein in mammals, accounting for up to 30% of all proteins. The collagen molecules, after being secreted by the cells, assemble into characteristic fibers responsible for the functional integrity of tissues such as bone, cartilage, skin, ligaments, and tendon.

They contribute a structural framework to other tissues such as blood vessels and most organs. Crosslinks between adjacent molecules are a prerequisite for the collagen fibers to withstand the physical stresses to which they are exposed. Significant progress has been made toward understanding the functional groups on the molecules that are involved in the formation of such crosslinks, their nature, and location.

A variety of human conditions, normal and pathologic, involve the ability of tissues to repair and regenerate their collagenous framework. Some of these conditions are characterized by excessive deposition of collagen (e.g., cirrhosis, scleroderma, keloid, pulmonary fibrosis, diabetes, etc.). After trauma or surgery, abnormal deposition of collagen may impair function (adhesions following repair of long tendons, scar formation during healing, etc.).

In addition, many disabling conditions result from changes in the nature and organization of collagen (heart-valve lesions, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and congenital collagen diseases such as Marfan’s and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, osteogenesis imperfecta, etc.).

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