What is the extracellular matrix? Cosmetic Business finds out

The ECM is the largest component of the human skin, providing structural and functional support to the dermis

Cosmetics Business asks what is the ECM, what is its function and how does this alter as we age?

Over to the expert…

Dr Katerina Steventon, Founder of Independent Skincare Consultancy Limited

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a three- dimensional network comprised of macromolecules – e.g collagen, elastin, and glycoproteins – which provide structural and functional support to fibroblasts.

The function of the dermal ECM is to provide strength and resiliency to the skin.

Mechanical integrity is imparted to the ECM by elastin, collagen and hydrophilic biomolecules as follows: collagen provides tensile strength and resistance to plastic deformation; elastin affords extensibility and recoil, so that tissues tolerate repetitive mechanical insults; and the hydrophilic glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and proteoglycans sequester water molecules that dampen mechanical forces.

Mechanical forces are communicated to cells via trans-membrane surface adhesion receptors, or integrins, that connect . . .

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