Fascia corresponds to the continuous connective tissue network throughout the body that is localized beneath the skin and surrounds muscle, bone, and nerve. Much of body work practice is accomplished by physical manipulation aimed at reorganizing fascia to improve its integration and functional characteristics.
Type 1 collagen is the major protein found in fascia, and fibroblasts are the cell type primarily responsible for collagen biosynthesis and organization. Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the structural, functional and mechanical features of fibroblasts (early passage human foreskin fibroblasts in our work) interacting with three dimensional collagen matrices. Unlike conventional 2D surfaces, with which most research on fibroblast-extracellular matrix interactions has been carried out, 3D collagen matrices offer unique, tissue-like features.
- Cells can penetrate into the matrix.
- Cell adhesions are limited to matrix fibrils rather than continuous fields of adsorbed matrix proteins.
- Cells can remodel matrix fibrils into stably reorganized structures.
In what follows, I will summarize several key points from my presentation at the First International Fascia Research Congress held in Boston, 2007. Figure 1 outlines the main ideas to be discussed. Readers interested in additional details including microscopic images and videos should consult our recent publications (Grinnell 2003; Rhee & Grinnell 2007; Rhee et al 2007; Jiang et al 2008; Miron-Mendoza et al 2008). I will not cite the large and growing literature in this field but simply comment that 3D matrices increasingly are being used to model different aspects of normal and pathological tissue function (Yamada & Cukierman 2007).