Author(s): Bhole AP, Flynn BP, Liles M, Saeidi N, Dimarzio CA,
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Abstract There has been great interest in understanding the methods by which collagen-based load-bearing tissue is constructed, grown and maintained in vertebrate animals. To date, the responsibility for this process has largely been placed with mesenchymal fibroblastic cells that are thought to fully control the morphology of load-bearing extracellular matrix (ECM). However, given clear limitations in the ability of fibroblastic cells to precisely place or remove single collagen molecules to sculpt tissue, we have hypothesized that the material itself must play a critical role in the determination of the form of structural ECM. We here demonstrate directly, using live, dynamic, differential interference contrast imaging, that mechanically strained networks of collagen fibrils, exposed to collagenase (Clostridium histolyticum), degrade preferentially. Specifically, unstrained fibrils are removed 'quickly', while strained fibrils persist significantly longer. The demonstration supports the idea that collagen networks are mechanosensitive in that they are stabilized by mechanical strain. Thus, collagen molecules (together with their complement enzymes) may comprise the basis of a smart, load-adaptive, structural material system. This concept has the potential to drastically simplify the assumed role of the fibroblast, which would need only to provide ECM molecules and mechanical force to sculpt collagenous tissue.
This article was published in Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci
and referenced in International Journal of Advancements in Technology