In a study published in Nature Cell Biology, Body Clock Biologists from the University of Manchester looked at how sleep helps the body perform through the rigors of the day. Lead author Professor Karl Kadler and his team discovered that the body’s extracellular matrix is made of two types of fibrils - thick fibrils and thinner fibrils. The thicker fibrils measure around 200 nanometers in diameter, a million times smaller than a pinhead. These fibrils are permanent fixtures in our bodies that are fixed in place at the age of 17. The thinner fibrils measure around 50 nanometers and break as we exert ourselves during the day. The thinner fibrils are regenerated at night while we sleep.
Half of the body's weight is matrix - skin, bone, tendon, and cartilage - while the other half is made up of collagen. Kadler and his team used advanced volumetric electron microscopy technology to view fibrils in the matrix of mice. The collagen was viewed with mass spectrometry. They found that when body clock genes were out of balance, both the thick and thin fibrils amalgamated randomly. Kadler explained, "Collagen provides the body with structure and is our most abundant protein, ensuring the integrity, elasticity, and strength of the body's connective tissue." He continued, "It’s intuitive to think our matrix should be worn down by wear and tear, but it isn't and now we know why; our body clock makes an element which is sacrificial and can be replenished, protecting the permanent parts of the matrix.”
Kadler is hoping that his findings will provide some insight into how wounds heal, or how we age.
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