Our bodies are held together by connective tissue - the tough, fibrous material that links together our flesh and bones. The most important ingredient of this biological ‘glue’ is collagen, which makes up around a quarter of all the protein in our entire body. Long, stringy collagen fibres – each less than a thousandth of the thickness of a human hair – bundle together like the strands of a rope to create sturdy tendons and ligaments. Collagen is also a vital component of skin, cartilage, bone and more. These collagen fibres were removed from someone’s knee during a type of keyhole surgery known as arthroscopy and captured using a scanning electron microscope, which uses tiny beams of electrons to build up delicate three-dimensional images. Subtle colours have been added afterwards; real-life collagen looks less colourful, though no less beautiful.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.