Researchers discover why tendons are strong as wire ropes

Under the electron microscope: collagen fiber bundle after mineralization with (the bone mineral) calcium phosphate.

Under the electron microscope: collagen fiber bundle after mineralization with (the bone mineral) calcium phosphate. © Max-Planck-Institut für Kolloid- und Grenzflächenforschung

A team at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (MPICI) has discovered with help of BESSY II new properties of collagen: During the intercalation of minerals in collagen fibers, a contraction tension is generated that is hundreds of times stronger than muscle strength. The associated changes in the collagen structure were observed using X-ray diffraction at the BESSY II synchrotron in Berlin-Adlershof while mineralization was taking place.

"This universal mechanism of mineralization of organic fiber tissues could be transferred to technical hybrid materials, for example, to achieve high breaking strength there," says Prof. Dr. Dr.h.c. Peter Fratzl, Director at the institute.

The fiber-forming structural protein collagen is found in tendons, skin and bones, among other places. It is also interesting from a medical or biological point of view to understand what happens in the process of mineralization in bones. Many bone diseases are associated with changes in mineral content in bones and thus altered properties.

Read the full press release on the MPIKG website.

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