When most people think of collagen, they think of beauty-conscious women who receive injections to appear more youthful. When life science researchers think of collagen, however, they conceive it as an abundant protein in the human body and associate it with connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, skin, corneas, cartilage, bones, blood vessels and teeth. Texas A & M University researchers are conducting analytical lab investigations to discover how collagen fibrils assemble into well-organized networks on surfaces.
“We are comparing the differences in collagen-formed structures,” said researcher Dr. Wonmuk Hwang. “What are the real differences between these molecules from different parts of the body? What differences exist in collagen that has formed bone and collagen that has formed the cornea? If you study this at the molecular level, you can begin to see the differences. Our research aims at providing a quantitative, detailed analysis of these differences.”
Dr. Hwang is an associate professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. His analytical lab processes involve using a computation model along with a new computer program to determine molecular-level differences in collagen networks that form under disparate conditions. Dr. Hwang’s findings have been published as the cover story in the journal “Physical Review Letters.”
In his study, Dr. Hwang discovered that collagen fibrils form as part of a complex network of triangular shapes where smaller triangles fill in the space between larger ones. Known as fractals, these structures occur frequently in natural formations such as river networks, clouds, seashore lines and mountains.
Fractal-like collagen fibrils (left) and computational model (right) with individual fibrils colored randomly
Image courtesy of Texas A&M University
Dr. Hwang found that it’s possible to distinguish between different networks that take shape under slightly altered conditions in his investigations. He compared this understanding to being able to tell the difference between two paintings that may look alike but have subtle differences. These findings are important to life science researchers in finding a better understanding of collagen’s various forms in future analytical lab work.
“When it comes to collagen formation, we need to understand what happens at the molecular level, and we need to be able to do this in a measurable way, quantitatively, to better understand how collagen grows and differentiates. The guided framework that has resulted from both this theory of collagen growth as well as the validation of our simulations provided by the CAFE program is helping achieve this goal.”
In order to fund studies such as these, life science researchers at Texas A&M need significant amounts of research funding. Fortunately, outside funding organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are able to provide life science funding for continuing research. So far in 2014, the NIH has given Texas A&M $39.1 million, while in 2013, the NSF awarded the university $17.8 million. Texas A&M University is also in the midst of a five-year grant totaling $176 million to fund research that focuses on the development of vaccines to respond quickly to flu pandemics.
If Dr. Hwang’s collagen research sounds interesting to you, and you are a lab supplier who would like to market your lab products and services within an active research marketplace at Texas A&M University, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. invites you to exhibit at the BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at Texas A&M University on January 28th, 2015. Last year, the BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at Texas A&M University attracted 175 attendees. Of these attendees, 33 were purchasing agents, professors and post docs, and 33 were lab managers. These visitors came from 31 different research buildings and 27 on-campus departments.
To learn more about reaching out to life science researchers at other U.S. universities, please see the 2015 calendar of events. Click on the button below for comprehensive funding statistics on Texas A&M University and more information about the Texas A&M vendor show.