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#70 — The Collagen Connection

by Monte Kline, Ph.D.

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Is there a simple answer to avoiding many common health problems?  Understanding the function of collagen and collagen-dissolving enzymes provides fundamental answers to preventing infectious, inflammatory, and heart disease, not to mention cancer and cancer metastases.  Research done by the late Nobel Laureate, Linus Pauling, Ph.D. and Matthias Rath, M.D. has absolutely transformed my view of health in the last couple of years.  It’s what I call the “Collagen Connection”.  I am convinced that the application of this information will prevent many health problems for you —it already has for me.


MY EXPERIMENT

Someplace I read that L-lysine supplementation could help prevent tooth decay.  On of the side-effects from the corticosteroid medication I have to take for Addison’s Disease is loss of bone density, which has included in my case, more frequent tooth decay.  I started taking L-lysine about two and half years before this writing, along with one of our collagen supplements (that being taken for ache and pain symptoms).

I don’t know if I got any improvement on tooth decay or aches and pains, but another unexpected benefit occurred — I stopped getting sick!  I found myself going through the entire winter without getting a cold, flu, respiratory infection — any of the usual stuff.  Then I came across the Pauling/Rath research and began to understand why.


WHAT IS COLLAGEN?

One-fourth of all the protein in the body is collagen.  Collagen is a structural protein, analogous to the mortar in a brick building, the bricks being the cells.  Collagen is the fibrous, elastic connective tissue that holds our bodies together, providing structural support with rope-like molecular cables. Collagen makes up much of our tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles, skin, hair and other tissues. It provides protection and support for the body’s soft tissues and connects them with the skeleton.  Adding crystalline minerals to collagen produces our bones and teeth.
Collagen is composed of three tightly wound chains of amino acids where three amino acids are repeated — glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.  Hydroxyproline results from oxygen reacting with proline, a reaction that is dependent on vitamin C.  Thus, vitamin C deficiency inhibits new collagen from being formed resulting in scurvy.

The body contains 19 types of collagen, though the following are the most common:

Type I — Main component of ligaments, tendons and bones.

Type II — Composes 50% of protein in cartilage.

Type III — Provides structure for arteries, intestine, uterus and other hollow body parts.

Type IV —Makes up basal lamina or “basement membrane” of epithelia tissue.  This type of collagen is different in that it forms a “meshwork”.  It provides a filter for the blood capilaries and the glomeruli of the kidneys.


COLLAGEN DISSOLVING

This is where the story gets really interesting.  Collagen must be dissolved temporarily for any cell to pass through the connective tissue.  To accomplish this, specific enzymes are secreted that temporarily digest the surrounding connective tissue.
This process occurs for healthy reasons such as ovulation.  In the first half of the female cycle granulocyte cells build a wall around the ripening egg cell.  These granulocytes produce lots of collagen-digesting enzymes.  In the middle of the cycle, the egg has so much collagen-digesting enzymes that it dissolves enough of the ovarian wall to allow the egg to move through the fallopian tube and into the uterus.  In other words, none of us would be here if it weren’t for the healthy action of collagen-dissolving.  I would add that after allowing the egg to escape, the body blocks further collagen-digesting enzyme activity healing the ovarian wall.

A healthy immune system also requires collagen-dissolving enzymes to move through the cell walls to where help is needed.  White blood cells get through the blood vessel walls to sites of infection through the activity of collagen–digesting enzymes.  One writer likened this to hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete to get to the desired location.

But what about the unhealthy instances of collagen-dissolving?  Viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms use this collagen-dissolving mechanism to initiate and spread an infection.  You get the common cold because collagen has been dissolved.  Cancer metastasis likewise occurs because of this same process.  Disease-causing agents like bacteria and viruses cannot invade the body unless the connective tissue is first dissolved by these enzymes.  Herein lies the answer to infectious disease, cancer and other health problems.


INFECTIOUS DISEASE

Let’s take a viral infection like the flu as an example.  The host cell may be in the mucous membranes of the nose, throat or lungs.  After invading the host cell, the virus transfers its genetic information to the cell nucleus of the host.  Now the virus can use the metabolism of the host cell to spread the infection.  It will do two things:  it will multiply the virus, and it will direct the host to produce collagen-dissolving enzymes so that the infection can be spread into surrounding tissue.  The more the virus can thus use the host cell, the quicker the infection spreads and the sicker you get.


CANCER

All cancer spreads by this same collagen-dissolving process.  It begins with cells being “reprogrammed” by toxin damage (from diet, pesticides, food additives, heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs, etc.) such that uncontrolled cell multiplication occurs.  Secondly, production of collagen-dissolving enzymes destroys adjacent tissue that would otherwise restrict the cancer growth.  The more of these enzymes cancer cells produce, the faster the cancer grows.
The collagen dissolving process also plays a major role in the spread of cancer — metastasis.  Small blood vessels supply cancer cells with nutrients, including oxygen.  Collagen-dissolving enzymes allow the cancer cell to eat through these blood vessel walls enabling the blood to then carry the cancer elsewhere in the body.


INFLAMMATORY DISEASE

Inflammation stimulates secretion of white blood cells to act as anti-inflammatories.  In chronic inflammation the body tends to overreact and over-secrete white blood cells.  These cells produce lots of collagen-digesting enzymes to get the white blood cells through the connective tissue to the site of the inflammation.  They also produce harmful free radical chemicals in the process.  If the inflammation goes on too long, the collagen-dissolving enzymes destroy the connective tissue creating a long-term (chronic) inflammatory disease.


ATHEROSCLEROSIS

Atherosclerosis refers to the deposition of fatty plaques on the blood vessel walls.  This begins with a vitamin deficiency in the arterial walls, followed by the body’s attempt to repair the weakness with the fatty particles — lipoproteins, cholesterol.  Thus we can see that high cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) are the result, not the cause of cardiovascular disease.
As this fatty deposit “band-aid” becomes insufficient, smooth muscle cells move from the artery’s outermost layer to the inner layer containing the atherosclerotic deposits in order to further strengthen the arterial wall.  These smooth muscle cells have to traverse the dense connective tissue of the basal membrane.  That, of course, requires collagen-digesting enzymes.


ENZYME BLOCKS

If the activation of collagen-dissolving enzymes paves the way for infectious, neoplastic, inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases, the answer to those conditions lies in blocking the collagen-dissolving enzymes.  this occurs two ways:  (1) intrinsic enzyme blocks that the body produces and (2) dietary enzyme blocks, particularly lysine, proline and vitamin C.


LYSINE

L-lysine is the most needed of the body’s nine essential amino acids (those that must come from diet).  Sufficient lysine blocks the anchor sites in the connective tissue for the collagen digesting enzymes.  Without those anchor sites the enzymes cannot attach to and destroy the connective tissue.  The cells may still be producing lots of collagen-dissolving enzymes, but they are thus made ineffective in breaking down collagen.  In this way the disease can be inhibited or even stopped.
A 150 lb. person has about one pound of lysine stored in their body.  You can’t really overdose on lysine, since the body just excretes excess, just as it does with vitamin C.  To the contrary, it is believed that most people have a chronic deficiency of this essential amino acid.
Normally the body’s own enzyme blocking action maintains the proper amount of collagen-dissolving enzyme activity.  L-lysine from diet and supplements provides a secondary mechanism to control collagen destruction.  The lysine only functions when the body’s own enzyme suppression is insufficient. Thus, we can’t really get too much lysine and over-suppress the collagen dissolving enzymes.


PROLINE

The amino acid proline is also a key component of collagen.  It is not an essential amino acid (you don’t have to get it from dietary sources), but the body can only synthesize it in small amounts.  People with chronic health problems involving significant enzyme destruction of their collagen, may have little or no ability to produce an adequate amount of proline, resulting in deficiency.


VITAMIN C & HYDROXYPROLINE

After the collagen chain is built with glycine and proline, the body modifies some of the proline molecules into hydroxyproline, which is necessary for collagen stability.  This reaction requires vitamin C.  Since humans (and guinea pigs) cannot synthesize their own vitamin C (unlike almost all animals), vitamin C deficiency stops production of new collagen.  That ultimately causes scurvy, resulting in loss of teeth and easy bruising, since there’s no new collagen to repair tissues from day to day stresses and injuries.

  1. C. Willis, M.D., a Canadian doctor, experimented in the mid-1950’s with depriving guinea pigs of vitamin C.  Totally deprived of vitamin C (remember, like humans, they can’t make their own as other animals do), they die a horrible death from scurvy in weeks.  Limited to the RDA for vitamin C, they live but develop atherosclerosis.  Given the human equivalent of 3000-5000 mg of vitamin C, they exhibit no signs of atherosclerosis.  Dr. Linus Pauling repeated Willis’ work, concluding that heart disease can be “completely controlled” or even “cured”.


CONCLUSIONS

I take L-lysine, vitamin C and other collagen supplements including HA — hyaluronic acid (see Better Health Update #64).  I have noted significant improvements in my own health, primarily resistance to viral infections like colds and bronchitis, none of which I’ve had in any significant degree since following this regimen.  This approach was developed by the only man to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, the late Linus Pauling, Ph.D. and Matthias Rath, M.D.  I’m convinced it works.  Try it for yourself.


REFERENCES

Willis, G. C. and Fishman, S., Ascorbic Acid Content of Human Arterial Tissue, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 69:17-22, 1953.

Ginter, E., et. al., The Effect of Chronic Hypovitaminosis C on the Metabolism of Cholesterol and Atherogenesis in Guinea Pigs, J Atherosclerosis Research, 10:341-352, 1969.

Pauling, L., Rath, M., Solution to the Puzzle of Human Cardiovascular Disease, J Orthomolecular Medicine, 6(3&4):125-133.

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Better Health Update is published by Pacific Health Center, PO Box 857, Sahuarita, AZ 85629, providing remote “virtual health screening” appointments anywhere in the world.  Phone (800) 255-4246.  E-Mail: drkline@pacifichealthcenter.com. Monte Kline, Ph.D., Author. Reproduction Prohibited.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained in this publication is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to diagnose illness nor prescribe treatment.  Rather, this material  is designed to be used in cooperation with your nutritionally-oriented health professional to deal with your personal health problems.  Should you use this information on your own, you are prescribing for yourself, which is your constitutional right, but neither the author nor publisher assume responsibility.

 



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