Article: Why we don’t understand collagen

A team at Rice University is digging into collagen’s molecular structure to see how it forms and interacts with biological systems.

“[Collagen] basically is the connective fiber that holds cells together; without it you’d turn into a big puddle,” says Jeffrey Hartgerink, an associate professor of chemistry and of bioengineering, who in a previous work unveiled a new way to synthesize self-assembling collagen.

“By mass, collagen is the most common protein there is. But it’s different from almost any other you might look at,” he adds.

While scientists have made a great deal of progress defining the structures of other proteins, “only a small group of us have been interested in collagen. And because of that, our understanding of it has lagged behind,” he notes.

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