Scientists have uncovered many of the natural nail’s secrets and have learned that crystalline keratin forms microscopic-sized fibres and this happens inside every one of the millions of nail cells that make up the nail plate. These tiny crystalline fibres are spiralled like springs or corkscrews, allowing them to pack tightly together, side-by-side, into compact bundles. These bundles aretwo-thousand times narrower than a human hair, so they can only be seen under very powerful microscopes. Each tiny bundle is enmeshed in a “sea” of gel-like substance made from noncrystalline keratin. The gel-like keratin helps to suspend, support and protect each crystalline bundle. This sea of keratin gel has a secondary purpose: it helps regulate the flow of water and oils as they pass throughthe nail plate. Keratin is made of proteins and all proteins are made from amino acids bonded together into strong chains. Protein chains usually contain between 5,000 to 100,000 amino acids, much like pearls on a necklace. When equal thickness are compared, keratin proteins are actually stronger than steel! Amino acids are held together in chains by covalent bonds - the strongest type ofchemical bonding in the world. In fact, without them, there would be no life on Earth; they’re that important! Covalent bonds occur in many materials, not just keratin, i.e. muscle, hair, skin, lungs and every other part of the body, which is why they are so important to all living things. It is safe to say that without covalent bonds, humans, plants and animals would not exist. Covalent bonds not onlyNails
Figure 1 ● A single nail cell sandwiched between other cells, magnified by 10,000 times. Many millions of nail cells combine to create a nail plate.
Image courtesy “Nail Structure and Product Chemistry, D. Schoon, 2nd Ed., (2005), Thompson/Delmar Learning, New York
“There’s a whole lot going on inside the nail cell, but what holds all the nail cells together to make a nail plate?Each nail cell is connected to its neighbouring cells by inter-locking connection as part of a gigantic network of nail cells that fit together much like a miniature jigsaw puzzle.”
BY Doug SChooN, ChIEf SCIENTIfIC ADvISor, CrEATIvE NAIL DESIgN, INC.
Figure 2 A desmosome and an anchoring knot joining two nail cells together, magnified by 13,000 times.
ver wonder what’s inside thenail plate and that makes it so amazingly strong and durable? Well, put on your hard hat, because we’re going into the natural nail to learn about its many hidden secrets. You may recall that the nail plate is made up of millions of tiny cells (see Figure 1) and each nail cell contains specialised proteins called keratin. There are basically two types of keratin: “crystalline” and “non-crystalline.”Substances that are crystalline have orderly chemical structures that are almost perfectly arranged, i.e. quartz, diamond, sapphire and topaz. Non-crystalline substances have a less organised structure and have very different properties. For example, the crystalline gemstones listed above have “transparency” and so do many other crystalline substances, including crystalline keratins. Thenon-crystalline keratins are less transparent and contribute to the cloudy appearance of the nail plate. But what great trick do these two types of keratins perform to carry out such impressing feats of amazing strength and durability? (See Figure 1).
There’s a whole lot going on inside the nail cell, but what holds all the nail cells together to make a nail plate? Eachnail cell is connected to its neighbouring cells by inter-locking connection as part of a gigantic network of nail cells that fit together much like a miniature jigsaw puzzle. Each nail cell is attached to it neighboring cell by a connecting doorway called a desmosome (see Figure 2). Each nail cell has several desmosomes connecting it to several different nail cells. Each desmosome not only links...