The role of type I collagen molecular structure in tendon elastic energy storage

Joseph W. Freeman, Frederick H. Silver, Mia D. Woods, Cato T. Laurencin

Research output: Contribution to journalConference article

2 Scopus citations


In order to facilitate locomotion and limb movement many animals store energy elastically in their tendons. The formation of crosslinked collagen fibers in tendons results in the conversion of weak, liquid-like embryonic tissues into tough elastic solids that can store energy and perform work. Collagen fibers in the form of fascicles are the major structural units found in tendons. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on collagen self-assembly and tendon development and to relate this information to the development of elastic energy storage in non-mineralizing and mineralizing tendons. Of particular interest is the mechanism by which energy is stored in tendons during locomotion. In the turkey, much of the force generated by the gastrocnemius muscle is stored as elastic energy during tendon deformation and not within the muscle. As limbs move, the tendons are strained, causing the collagen fibers in the extracellular matrices to stretch. Through the analysis of turkey tendons, collagen fibers, and a molecular model, it is hypothesized that elastic energy is stored in the flexible regions of the collagen molecule. Data from the molecular model, mineralized fibers, and turkey tendons show that the presence of calcium and phosphate ions causes an increase in elastic energy stored per unit strain. Based on the theoretical modeling studies, the increase in stress with strain is a result of the initiation of stretching of the rigid regions of collagen molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL1.6
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalMaterials Research Society Symposium Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2005
Event2005 Materilas Research Society Spring Meeting - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 29 2005Mar 31 2005


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering

Cite this