Within the last decade silicon has been recognized as participating in the normal metabolism of higher animals and as being an essential trace element. Silicon is found to perform an important role in connective tissue, especially in bone and cartilage. Bone and cartilage abnormalities are associated with a reduction in matrix components, resulting in the establishment of a requirement for silicon in collagen and glycosaminoglycan formation. Silicon’s primary effect in bone and cartilage is on the matrix, with formation of the organic matrix appearing to be more severely affected by silicon deficiency than the mineralization process. Additional support for silicon’s metabolic role in connective tissue is provided by the finding that silicon is a major ion of osteogenic cells and is present in especially high concentrations in the metabolically active state of the cell; furthermore, silicon reaches relatively high levels in the mitochondria of these cells. Further studies also indicate that silicon participates in the biochemistry of the subcellular enzyme-containing structures. Silicon also forms important interrelationships with other elements. Although it is clear from the body of recent work that silicon performs a specific metabolic function, a structural role has also been proposed for it in connective tissue. A relationship established between silicon and ageing probably relates to glycosaminoglycan changes.
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