Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Connective Tissue: Extracellular Matrix Hydration

This post is intended to complement the earlier Fibroblast post...essentially an attempt to provide some ¨digestible¨ amounts of critical information on the fundamentals of connective tissue (fascia). It can be somewhat overwhelaming, however it isn´t necessary to attempt to completely unravel the entire story...rather to acquire a working knowledge and understanding so that intelligent formulation, analysis, and strategy can be generated. The following information is quite readily available from many sources, but hopefully I will be able to compress it into an easily absorbable ¨blurb¨. Connective Tissue (CT) composes a large amount of total body mass and contributes to a wide variety of important systemic and mechanical functions ranging from support, movement, fluid transport, and various metabolic processes. The unique properties of the CT are determined by the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM is essentially made up of 3 major macromolecules: Fibers (Collagen, Elastin), Proteoglycans, and Glycoproteins (not necessary to remember these). It is also made up of tissue fuid. The before mentioned Fibroblast exists within this matrix as well. All of these components are linked and contribute to the mechanical role (systemic as well) of connective tissue. Connective tissue responds (through Mechanotransduction) to compression, tension, sheer, and torsion...therefore the type of response in directly linked to the TYPE OF IMPOSED STIMULUS. The ECM therefore regulates the tissue environment based on the stress it experiences. One way this is done is by regulating fluid flow. Fluid flow refreshes the tissue and promotes elasticity as well as healthy remodelling. Impairments to fluid flow are linked to extreme conditions such as fibrotic conditions (lack of effective fluid flow) and edema (intrusion of excess fluid). The fuid within CT is made up of free moving and bound water molecules, therefore its mobility is dependant on slower / lighter inputs of stimulus (stress).
The above image is an example of Trans-Fascial Viscolelastic Stimulation (TFVES) which is speciafically designed to promote healthy remodelling of connective tissue through the use of a stress transfer medium (Soft Gym Ball). The technique itself has specific loading properties that promote the transfer of mechanical stimulus to the deeper fascial levels. It is this movement of interstitial fluid that drives the remodelling process and contributes to the strengthening of the connective (fascial) system. It has been shown that collagen synthesis continues up to 48 hours after applied stimulus, which higlights the very specific nature of connective tissue response---more isn´t necessarily better.
It is important to remember that equilibrium between collagen synthesis and degradation is essential for proper function (systemic and mechanical). Any alteration in this homeostasis results in systemic dysfunction, metabolic deficiencies, irregular mechanical loading and force transfer --- essentially the entire spectrum of potential pathology from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and extending into disorders of movement and posture (Cerebral Palsy). In summary, each of the theoretical posts found here (Mechanotransduction, The Fibroblast, Connective Tissue) are meant to serve as pieces to the larger picture --- specific, focused stimulus applied in a specific way to achieve a specific desired goal. Each topic stands alone, however the fundamental thing to rememeber is to make links and draw strategic conclusions that make sense. More to come. Cheers.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Gavin, for the very clear and concise post regarding the role of connective tissue...looking forward to more!