‘Skin loses its elasticity as it ages, you must have heard this statement quite often. Do you ever wonder why skin is so elastic during youth and it loses its elasticity with age? Let’s find out what is Elastin?
An extremely elastic protein, Elastin, is present in the extracellular matrix and connective tissue that is responsible for the elasticity of our skin, tissues, tendons, vessels, and other organs. It provides flexibility and strength to tissues to protect them from tearing apart under pressure or stress. Besides, it also has mechanical properties that play a role in absorbing load in bones, especially vertebrates. Any changes in the normal formation, function, or structure can lead to serious complications of different body structures.
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What is its structure?
The precursor of Elastin is Tropoelastin which is a soluble molecule. It is synthesized within the cell and transported out to the extracellular matrix. Soon after their synthesis, they crosslink with each other to form elastin fibers. Tropoelastin has 36 domains. Every elastin molecule comprises hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains alternating to each other. Exons encode these alternating domains and define the particular structure of the domain.
There are two types of hydrophilic domains that crosslink during the maturation of elastin.
Lys-Ala (KA): Alanine residues separates the lysine pairs from each other
Lys-Pro (KP): Proline separates the Lysine residues
The coiling and cross-linking found in the structure of elastin are responsible for its mechanical and resilient properties. However, the amount of elastin in one’s body also depends on extrinsic and intrinsic factors including age, gender, health, body structures, environmental factors, and radiations.
Is there any difference between Elastin and Collagen?
Though both are components of connective tissue, yet they are very different from each other. Some of the differences between elastin and collagen include:
Color: Collagen is white in color whereas elastin is black.
Function: Collagen gives rigidity to the structures, while Elastin maintains flexibility. In the absence of elastin, you won’t be able to flex your skin to give any expression.
Formation: Collagen keeps on producing until aging begins. On the other hand, elastin only produces during fetal development and until puberty.
Structure: Collagen is made up of polypeptide chains, while Elastin is made up of tropoelastin.
In many connective tissue diseases, both Elastin and Collagen may be degenerated or damaged.
Which foods does it contain?
Like Collagen, Elastin is a fibrous protein that is naturally found in the connective tissue of our body. This fact makes it quite obvious that one must take a protein-rich diet to increase the production of elastin protein. The foods rich in elastin can be beef, turkey, chicken, salmon, cheese, beans, eggs, green vegetables, and fruits.
How does benefit human health?
Elastin being an integral part of connective tissue plays a significant role in our body. Be it skin, tissues, tendons, arteries, or lungs, it has its benefits depending on the general function of that particular structure.
According to research, elastin due to its crosslinked domains effectively contributes to the mechanical properties of the skin. When you pinch your skin, it goes back to its original state. Right? That ability of the skin to regain its original form after you apply stress comes from Elastin. Elastin enables the skin to stay flexible enough that it doesn’t harden, and firm enough that it doesn’t wrinkle.
One of the early signs of aging includes wrinkles, creases, and lines. Your skin starts losing its tone. This happens when elastin fibers start degenerating and decrease in number. This is a natural process, however, a proper diet and elastin supplements might help in delaying the onset. Any damage to elastin can also lead to various skin diseases.
Since Elastin is a component of the extracellular matrix, it is clearly important in arterial structure. As blood flows through the arteries, it exerts pressure against the walls of the arteries. At that point, arteries have to be mechanically strong enough to ensure a smooth flow of blood. That’s where elastin plays its part by providing maximum flexibility and strength.
It is also suggested that as aging continues, Elastin fibers also decrease in the structure of vessel walls, hence they become weaker. This can lead to hypertension, arteriosclerosis, aortic stenosis, blood clotting, and hemostatic abnormalities.
Tendons and Bones:
Another study suggests that the mechanical nature of elastin fibers are somehow significant to energy-storing structures like tendons and bodies of vertebrae. We know that elastin has the capacity to withstand heavy loads. Now, this load-bearing capacity increases the mechanical properties of tendons and vertebrae as well.
As discussed earlier, the number of elastin fibers decrease as the human body age. This causes loss of elasticity, firmness, and flexibility. Ultimately wrinkles and fine lines start appearing on your skin. Supplements are available in the form of tablets or solutions that can slow down the damage or degeneration of natural elastin fibers. They delay the early signs of aging by delaying the appearance of sagging and wrinkling skin. However, one must consult his or her doctor before taking elastin supplements.