Influence of fibril taper on the function of collagen to reinforce extra-cellular matrix

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Collagen fibrils provide tensile reinforcement for extracellular matrix. In at least some tissues, the fibrils have a paraboloidal taper at their ends. The purpose of this paper is to determine the implications of this taper for the function of collagen fibrils. When a tissue is subjected to low mechanical forces, stress will be transferred to the fibrils elastically. This process was modelled using finite element analysis because there is no analytical theory for elastic stress transfer to a non-cylindrical fibril. When the tissue is subjected to higher mechanical forces, stress will be transferred plastically. This process was modelled analytically. For both elastic and plastic stress transfer, a paraboloidal taper leads to a more uniform distribution of axial tensile stress along the fibril than would be generated if it were cylindrical. The tapered fibril requires half the volume of collagen than a cylindrical fibril of the same length and the stress is shared more evenly along its length. It is also less likely to fracture than a cylindrical fibril of the same length in a tissue subjected to the same mechanical force.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1979-1983
Number of pages5
JournalRoyal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2005