Eastman Dental Institute


Combining nano-physical and computational investigations to understand “aging” in dermal collagen

27 April 2017

Combining nano-physical and computational investigations to understand the nature of “aging” in dermal collagen

Ahmed T, Nash A, Clark KEN, Ghibaudo M, de Leeuw NH, Potter A, Stratton R, Birch HL, Enea Casse R, Bozec L

International Journal of Nanomedicine

The impact of ageing on our organs such as skin is still not yet fully understood despite significant research being carried out to decipher ageing mechanisms taking place in those tissues. In a novel approach, a research team from UCL used a combination of nanohistology and nanomechanics (AFM) to uncover the mechanical properties of single collagen fibrils at a scale of 1/1,000,000 metres on human skin biopsies samples obtained from colleagues at the UCL Royal Free Hospital.

In their research, they managed to discover nanoscale structural markers for ageing as well as a relationship between Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE) and the mechanical properties of said collagen fibrils. This relationship suggested how collagen ageing evolved to maintain a degree of flexibility through the adsorption and binding of water within its structure. This hypothesis was confirmed by computational modelling carried out with UCL Chemistry.

The next phase of research will require an increase in the number of volunteers’s samples for repeated analyses. With this research, we have paved the way towards a new type of research in medicine, namely “quantitative nanohistology”.

This publication presents for the first time how our connective tissues can able to the deleterious effects of ageing by changing their physical properties and present the crucial role of water affinity with collagen.

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