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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Valerie M Kish


Cells in the human body are not the only components of tissue; the cells are held together and supported by a complex array of collagens, proteoglycans, and glycoproteins that provide essential structural and functional stability to the cells. Together, these molecules are called the extracellular matrix (ECM). Because of its rigid structure, the ECM must be degraded in order for cells to alter their physical shape, function, or location inside the tissue. This task is accomplished by enzymes called proteases, which hydrolyze the peptide bonds within proteins. Once the necessary ligands in the ECM have been degraded, cells can then migrate through the degraded areas in order to assume their new shape, function, or location (Uhm et al., 1997). This capability to degrade and reshape tissues is most significant during embryonic development, although it has uses at other times during an organism's life.