About Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
The Story of the Hyaluronic Acid Molecule
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a carbohydrate, more specifically a mucopolysaccharide occurring naturally throughout the human body. It can be several thousands of sugars (carbohydrates) long. When not bound to other molecules, it binds to water giving it a stiff viscous quality similar to “Jello”. This viscous Gel is one of the most heavily researched substances in medicine today with thousands of clinical trials mostly in the fields of orthopedics and eye surgery. Its function in the body is, amongst other things, to bind water and to lubricate movable parts of the body, such as joints and muscles. Its consistency and tissue-friendliness allows it to be used in skin-care products as an excellent moisturizer. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most hydrophilic (water-loving) molecules in nature and can be described as "nature's moisturizer".
Where is it located in the body?
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is found naturally in most every cell in the body and occurs in high concentrations in specific body locations. In each body location, it serves a different function. Unfortunately, HA also has a half-life ( the time it takes for the molecule to get broken down and excreted from the body) of less than 3 days and possibly even as little as one day in the skin. For this reason, it is imperative that the body continually replenish itself with HA. Below are some of the areas in the human body where hyaluronic acid is present and critical to its function.
hyaluronic acid is found in all bones and cartilage structures throughout the body. Both of these structures provide a resilient rigidity to the structure of the human body. HA is especially found in various forms of cartilage but none more than the hyaline cartilage. As you've probably guessed it, hyaline is short for hyaluronic acid. Hyaline cartilage covers the ends of the long bones where articulation (bending) occurs and provides a cushioning effect for the bones. The hyaline cartilage has been called the "gristle cartilage" because its resistance to wear and tear. Hyaline cartilage also supports the tip of the nose, connects the ribs to the sternum and forms most of the larynx and supporting cartilage of the trachea and bronchial tubes in the lungs.
Although hyaluronic acid (HA) can be found naturally in most every cell in the body, it is found in the greatest concentrations in the skin tissue. Almost 50% of the bodies HA is found here. It is found in both the deep underlying dermal areas as well as the visible epidermal top layers. Young skin is smooth and elastic and contains large amounts of HA that helps keep the skin stay young and healthy. The HA provides continuous moisture to the skin by binding up to 1000 times its weight in water. With age, the ability of the skin to produce HA decreases leaving the skin unhealthy and wrinkled.
How does hyaluronic acid help the body?
In the joints If we compare the joints of the human body to and automobile engine, the joint fluid in the body mimics the oil in a car engine. At regular intervals we replace the oil in our car engines because the heat and friction breakdown the oils viscosity. The oil becomes thinner and less able to protect the metal surfaces from excessive wear. Hyaluronic acid acts the same way in our joints. As we age the viscosity of the joint fluid breaks down and becomes thin and is unable to cushion the joint cartilage. This leads to increased friction and wear on the cartilage surfaces of the joints. hyaluronic acid helps to restore the normal viscosity of joint fluid and to prevent further damage to the joint.