What is Hyaluronan?

Hyaluronan (HA) is a megadalton polymeric glycosaminoglycan made up of repeating disaccharide subunits of N-acetylglucosamine and glucuronic acid. It is found in most tissues and body fluids of vertebrates, but is most abundant in the extracellular matrix of connective tissues. High concentrations of HA can be found in tissues, such as the skin, umbilical cord, synovial fluid and vitreous humour. HA is rapidly turned over in normal skin with a half-life of less than two days, but relatively constant levels are maintained by similar rates of synthesis and degradation.

HA in the Subcutaneous Space

In skin, HA fills the interstitial space within the collagenous matrix and acts as a physical barrier to bulk fluid flow in the subcutaneous space. It does this by binding up to 15 water molecules per disaccharide subunit forming a viscous gel-like fluid. This gel-like HA limits fluid flow in the subcutaneous space, acts as a lubricant in other compartments, such as the synovial fluid within joints, and functions as a viscoelastic cushion to protect tissues and joints. In addition, HA may be involved in various receptor-mediated cell signaling events with proposed roles in areas, such as cell detachment, wound healing, cell migration, inflammation and tumor development.

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