Connective tissue: a body-wide signaling network?

Med Hypotheses. 2006;66(6):1074-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2005.12.032. Epub 2006 Feb 17.


Unspecialized "loose" connective tissue forms an anatomical network throughout the body. This paper presents the hypothesis that, in addition, connective tissue functions as a body-wide mechanosensitive signaling network. Three categories of signals are discussed: electrical, cellular and tissue remodeling, each potentially responsive to mechanical forces over different time scales. It is proposed that these types of signals generate dynamic, evolving patterns that interact with one another. Such connective tissue signaling would be affected by changes in movement and posture, and may be altered in pathological conditions (e.g. local decreased mobility due to injury or pain). Connective tissue thus may function as a previously unrecognized whole body communication system. Since connective tissue is intimately associated with all other tissues (e.g. lung, intestine), connective tissue signaling may coherently influence (and be influenced by) the normal or pathological function of a wide variety of organ systems. Demonstrating the existence of a connective signaling network therefore may profoundly influence our understanding of health and disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Connective Tissue / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*