Gelatin is a protein, made from the hydrolysis of collagen, a protein
that makes up about a third of all mammalian tissue. Collagen is what
makes up much of the connective tissue, tendons, and the protein part of
Hydrolysis in proteins is the process of adding a molecule of water
to break the bonds between some of the amino acids, thereby making the protein
Collagen forms a triple helix, where three chains of connected amino
acids form weak hydrogen bonds between the double bonded oxygen atoms
and the hydrogen atoms attached to the adjacent chain's nitrogens. The
three chains then twist together like three cords in a rope.
In gelatin, when the triple helices are heated in water, they open up,
and some of the hydrolyzed ends fray out to tangle with other ropes,
and water is trapped in the strands. The result is a gel, a wiggly
Gelatin is very familiar as the gelling agent in Jell-O desserts. It
is also used to thicken yogurt, sour cream, and ice creams, and is
dried to form the dissolvable plastic capsules that make medicines
easier to swallow.
Gelatin in its unrefined form is the hide glue used to hold violins
Gelatin is the binder that makes marshmallows possible, and is also
what makes gummy bear candies gummy.