As discussed earlier, connective tissue, acts to support your bodies organs and keep everything together. Fibroblasts are the cells in the body that are the most important in making this connective tissue, also known as extracellular (outside the cell) matrix. Fibroblasts are important in making a variety of proteins but two of the most abundant and important are:
- Collagen – acts like the cables on a suspension bridge or rebar in construction, adding strength to your tendons and other tissues.
- Elastin – an elastic fibre that gives tissues, like your skin, the ability to snap back into place.
By far one of the most important functions of fibroblasts is to repair your body’s wounds. If you imagine a cut in your hand, fibroblasts help heal it in two major ways:
- They make and lay down collagen at the site of the wound. The collagen makes the wound stronger and also provides an attachment point for other cells, like epithelium to form a barrier over the wound while it heals. Slow or improper depositing of collagen can make the growth of epithelium more difficult. The result is a scar.
- They pull the edges of the wound closer together and allow for wound closure. They do this by turning into special fibroblasts called myofibroblasts. These are something between a muscle cell and a fibroblast.
Normally, fibroblasts are turned off when the wound is healed. If this does not occur properly and excessive collagen is made by the fibroblasts then we get fibrosis. Fibrosis can occur all over the body and is responsible for or present in diseases like pulmonary fibrosis, asthma, Chron’s disease, cancer, and burn scarring. Research in these diseases is focused on how to turn off fibrosis or abnormal wound healing by fibroblasts.