Thanks to Skillshare for supporting this episode of SciShow. [INTRO ♪] 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 your feet were without looking at them. Fascia not only connects organs to other organs—like muscle to skin—it’s 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. Fascia 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 their most obvious roles are to keep us together 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’s able to have these 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 fascia can 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 that when pressure is applied, electrical charge moves around. That charge movement could then trigger the cells in the tissue to produce or break down 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 could tell muscle cells to relax or contract directly or to dilate 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’re all somewhat right. But however fascia manages to perform its 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 they belong. 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 your 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 it’s packed with mechanosensors, it’s thought to play a big role in proprioception, or the ability to sense where your body parts are in space. It’s also probably important for interoception, or the ability to sense what’s going on inside your body. And fascia’s 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. Though a lot more research is needed, studies suggest that fascia could play a big part in how we regulate our feelings and emotions because it tells your brain so much information about the location and condition of your body parts. Fascia is also being investigated for its potential role in conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic pain. That’s not as much of a reach as it might sound, since fascia contains a lot of pain receptors and the swelling of fascia, also called fasciitis, can cause persistent pain in joints and other body parts. And, it’s not just medical doctors or psychologists getting in on the fascia research action. Engineers are also interested in fascia because of those mechanical properties. There aren’t a whole lot of substances out
there that can go from stiff to fluid like fascia can. So they’re keen to uncover exactly how fascia performs this biomechanical miracle. The truth is, there’s just so much we don’t know about fascia yet. And this is probably because, well, fascia
is really complex! Fascia produces cellular, extracellular, neural and biomechanical responses. And the layering of collagen varies based
on where the fascia is found. Scientists are working out how to classify fascial tissues into functional groups, so they can better explore their capabilities. And since fascia connects the entire body
with amazing dynamic elastic properties, there’s no doubt the future of fascia will be exciting. Fascia’s ability to transfer from one form to another is truly incredible. And if you want to do a little transforming
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6 thoughts on “Fascia: The Body’s Remarkable, Functional Glue”

  1. Skillshare is offering SciShow viewers two months of unlimited access to Skillshare for free! Try it here:

  2. Thanks! One of the few really good and realistic videos about fascia! Some remarks, still: there are no "pain receptors", since pain is a product of the central nervous system. This kind of terminology only keeps confusing patients and professionals, conflicting with our goal of clarifying pain neuroscience in the population. And: we have to be very careful in making comclusions about fascia and emotions. Long way to go there in science yet.

  3. Pinche copia de Hank Green 🙁 solo que mas guapo pero que sad que su estilo de explicar las cosas se parezca. Uno que quiere cosas diferentes y salen con esto lol.

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