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There’s a connective tissue running all throughout your body that not only holds all your muscles and organs together, but also has sensory and mechanical properties that may explain some poorly-understood medical phenomena.

Hosted by: Michael Aranda

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Sources:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjRhiLzWZDQ&vl=en
http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/highest-high-jump-(male)
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/41fe/980e0b8bc21eb2fa4ac7409eacbb05468945.pdf
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289814802_Fascia_The_Tensional_Network_of_the_Human_Body_The_science_and_clinical_applications_in_manual_and_movement_therapy
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859202000670
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859202000761
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3091473/
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23185528
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The human body can perform incredible physical feats like surfing an 18 meter wave or jumping over 2 meters in the air.

And while you might applaud muscles for such acts you should probably credit Fascia too.  Fascia is the vast network of connective tissue that makes your body a single continuous unit capable of sensations and actions.  

I mean, it would be pretty hard to surf if your muscles didn't fully contract when you wanted, or if you didn"t know where you feet were without looking at them.

Fascia not only connects organs to other organs, like muscle to skin, its also got all kinds of nerve endings which help you sense your body in space and even what's happening inside you.  Yet, for decades doctors and scientists considered it boring filler tissue. They'd throw it away thinking that provided a cleaner view of the organ they were really studying.  

Today, they know better.  Fasica is considered to be an important sensory organ in its own right.  And one with some weird physical traits.  And the more we learn about it the more incredible it seems to get.

Your fascia is everywhere inside you.  There isn't an organ, muscle or blood vessel that isn't connected to or enveloped by it.  

It's one of the major kinds of supportive connective tissue, along with ligaments and tendons, all of which are mostly made up of stretchy bundles of Elastin and Collagen proteins suspended in a gelatinous goo called Ground Substance. And the most obvious roles are to keep us tgether and help us move around.  

But even among these supportive connective tissues, fascia is a bit of a star.  See, ligaments and tendons have pretty much one job: to transfer energy between muscles and bones by being strong yet stretchy.  

Fascia does that too, like the fascia in your foot that connects your heel to your toes, but it also acts as a lubricant.  You can find it between the muscle fibers within a muscle and also surrounding the whole muscle and that helps ensure that your muscles can fully contract while preventing damage from friction when you flex.

One of the most intriguing things about fascia is that it is able to have very different mechanical properties.  

After all, being strong and stretchy doesn't really help things slip around when they need to.

In part this can be explained by different kinds of fascia.  In general, the stretchy collagen fibers in fascia are woven in mesh-like layers but in some areas these meshes are more tightly woven or have more collagen or have different types of collagen.

No one is quite sure how many different types of fascial tissue there are but that still doesn't explain how specific regions of fasciacan hold muscles or organs in place and act as a lubricant for them.  

It turns out fascia can do something kind of remarkable:  it can change its material properties.  When the tissue needs to be more rigid, it can take on a more gel-like form.  Then, when it needs to be slick and slippery, it can essentially liquify.  And, to be honest, no one's 100% sure how it does that.

Some people think it's simply that the ground substance makes fascia thixotropic, that is when stressed it becomes more liquidy.  

Others think the tissue is more of a liquid crystal and like many solid crystals, that means when pressure is applied, electrical charge moves around.  That charge movement could then trigger the charge in the tissue to produce or breakdown key components like collagens.

And still other scientists think it has more to do with the nerve and muscle cells in the tissues.  That's because fascia has lots of special neural receptors called mechanosensors that can detect pressure or stretch.  

When triggered they can tell muscle fibers to relax or contract directly, or to dialate or constrict blood vessels and by doing so, move fluid around to adjust gooeyness.

More research will have to settle the debate between these three ideas or determine if they are all some what right.  

But however fascia manages to perform it's solid to liquid trick, one thing is clear, it isn't just the weird glue that holds us together.

For centuries it was considered filler material, or just basic packaging that kept your parts where it belonged.  Now, scientists speculate that fascia could play a role in all sorts of poorly understood phenomena.  

Because it's around all of your organs, anything our body wants to move around has to pass through it and that means it could have a big part to play in everything from hormonal signaling to your immune response.  

Also, scientists now consider fascia to be one giant sensory organ. Since it's all throughout your body and packed with mechanosensors it's thought to play a big role in proprioception, or the ability to sense where your body in space.  

It's also probably important for interoception, or the ability to sense what's going on inside your body.  

And fascias ability to contract or dilate blood vessels ties it to your autonomic nervous system, the system that unconsciously regulates the activity of your internal organs such as your guts, bladder, or salivary and sweat glands.

It might even play a role in psychological disorders