What is Cartilage

Cartilage is a connective tissue composed of cells (chondrocytes) and fibres (collagen or yellow elastic) embedded in a firm, gel-like matrix which is rich in a mucopolysaccharide. It is much more elastic than bone. It is found in many areas in the bodies of  including the joints between bones, the rib cage, the ear, the nose, the bronchial tubes and the intervertebral discs.

It is not as hard and rigid as bone but is stiffer and less flexible than muscle.

It has no blood supply or lymphatics for drainage. The nutrition of cells occurs by diffusion through the matrix. Cartilage is insensitive to pain because it has  no nerves.

A layer of fibrous tissue, called perichondrium surrounds it like periosteum surrounds the bone. The articular cartilage has no perichondrium, so that its regeneration after injury is inadequate.

Chondrocytes are primary cells that form cartilage.

Types of Cartilage

Hyaline

It is bluish white and translucent due to very fine collagen fibres. It distribution is most abundant, and has a tendency to calcify after 40 years of age. All cartilage bones are preformed in hyaline. Examples are  articular cartilage costal cartilages, tracheal and bronchial cartilages, and most of the cartilages of nose and larynx.

Fibrocartilage.

It is white and opaque due to abundance of dense collagen fibres. Wherever fibrous tissue is subjected to great pressure, it is replaced by fibrocartilage which is tough, strong and resilient. Exaples are intervertebral disc, intra-articular discs, menisci and labra. It lines certain bony grooves in which the tendons play.

  • Shock Absorbers: Absorbs the shocks  between the vertebrae.
  • Support: Provides sturdiness without impeding movement.
  • Movement: The white fibrocartilage forms a firm joint between bones but still allows for a reasonable degree of movement.
  • Deepens Sockets: In articular cavities such as the ball-and-socket joints in the hip and shoulder regions white fibrocartilage deepens the sockets to make dislocation less possible.

Elastic

It is made up of numerous cells and a rich network of yellow elastic fibers pervading the matrix, so that is more pliable. Example: cartilages in the external ear, auditory tube, and small cartilages at the inlet of larynx. It performs following functions.

  • Maintain Shape: In the ear, for example, it helps to maintain the shape and flexibility of the organ.
  • Support: It  also strengthens and supports these structures.

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