Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Math Model Could Aid Study Of Collagen Ailments

Date:
November 15, 2006
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
An MIT researcher's mathematical model explains for the first time the distinctive structure of collagen, a material key to healthy human bone, muscles and other tissues. The new model shows collagen's structure from the atomic to the tissue scale. An improved understanding of nature's most abundant protein could aid the search for cures to such ailments as osteoporosis and scurvy, all recognized as arising from diseased collagen.

The building blocks of healthy collagen, above, begin with one-nanometer-sized amino acids, which form the universal 300-nanometer tropocollagen strands. Fibrils composed of those strands, in turn, make up the steel-cable-like collagen fibers. (Diagram courtesy of M. Buehler)

An MIT researcher's mathematical model explains for the first time the distinctive structure of collagen, a material key to healthy human bone, muscles and other tissues. The new model shows collagen's structure from the atomic to the tissue scale.

An improved understanding of nature's most abundant protein could aid the search for cures to such ailments as osteoporosis, joint hyperextensibility and scurvy, all recognized as arising from diseased collagen. It could also guide engineers' development of synthetic versions of the protein, which in its healthy state is several times stronger than steel per molecule.

Biological experiments in the past have shown that collagen's universal design consists of molecules staggered lengthwise, arranged like fibers in a steel cable. Each tiny tropocollagen molecule--the smallest collagen building block--is around 300 nanometers long and only 1.5 nanometers thick. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.) But why these ropy strands of amino acids--the molecular building blocks of proteins--associate to form tropocollagen molecules consistently at the same length has been unexplained until now.

The molecular model of collagen developed by Markus Buehler, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, started on the atomic scale. Buehler then combined elements of quantum mechanics and molecular dynamics to scale his model up and show precisely which length and arrangement of molecules were best for sustaining large weights pulling in opposite directions, a process known as tensile loading.

Buehler discovered that the ideal length of tropocollagen molecules was indeed close to 300 nanometers. His work has shown that the characteristic nanopatterned structure of collagen is responsible for its high extensibility and strength. "This is the first time a predictive, molecular model was used to explain the design features that experiments have shown for decades without understanding the rationale behind them," he explained.

"The response of materials to tensile loading has been studied in materials science for computer chips, cars and buildings, but is still poorly understood for biological materials. What we are doing is looking at biological systems on a molecular level, the same way we would examine glass or metal," said Buehler. "This represents a new way of thinking about biological matter, and it may hold the key to engineering biological systems as we design man-made devices today."

The next step in the research will be to delve deeper into the structure of collagen. "We've developed a reference point for healthy collagen. This enables us now to study how diseases or genetic mutations impact the structure," said Buehler. Learning more about the structural differences between diseased and healthy collagen could help in the development of biomimetic materials.

Buehler is optimistic about the future. "Understanding the mechanical properties of protein materials--in particular their deformation and fracture--is a frontier in materials science. We're trying to figure out how nature creates better materials than we can," he said.

The current work, which appeared in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by startup grants Buehler received from MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and MIT's School of Engineering.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Math Model Could Aid Study Of Collagen Ailments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061114190020.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2006, November 15). Math Model Could Aid Study Of Collagen Ailments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061114190020.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Math Model Could Aid Study Of Collagen Ailments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061114190020.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FBI Finishes $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

FBI Finishes $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) The FBI announced it plans to make its Next Generation Identification System available to law enforcement, but some privacy advocates are worried. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A+ for Apple iPhone Pre-Sales

A+ for Apple iPhone Pre-Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 15, 2014) Apple says it received a record 4 million first-day pre-orders for its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, pushing delivery dates into October. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft to Buy 'Minecraft' Maker for $2.5B

Microsoft to Buy 'Minecraft' Maker for $2.5B

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) Microsoft will acquire the maker of the long-running hit game Minecraft for $2.5 billion as the company continues to invest in its Xbox gaming platform and looks to grab attention on mobile phones. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins