Cartilage


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Cartilage (Wikipedia)
Cartilage
Hypertrophic Zone of Epiphyseal Plate.jpg
Light micrograph of undecalcified hyaline cartilage showing chondrocytes and organelles, lacunae and matrix
Identifiers
MeSHD002356
TAA02.0.00.005
FMA71500
Anatomical terminology

Cartilage is a resilient and smooth elastic tissue, a rubber-like padding that covers and protects the ends of long bones at the joints, and is a structural component of the rib cage, the ear, the nose, the bronchial tubes, the intervertebral discs, and many other body components. It is not as hard and rigid as bone, but it is much stiffer and much less flexible than muscle. The matrix of cartilage is made up of glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans, collagen fibers and, sometimes, elastin.

Because of its rigidity, cartilage often serves the purpose of holding tubes open in the body. Examples include the rings of the trachea, such as the cricoid cartilage and carina.

Cartilage is composed of specialized cells called chondrocytes that produce a large amount of collagenous extracellular matrix, abundant ground substance that is rich in proteoglycan and elastin fibers. Cartilage is classified in three types, elastic cartilage, hyaline cartilage and fibrocartilage, which differ in relative amounts of collagen and proteoglycan.

Cartilage does not contain blood vessels (it is avascular) or nerves (it is aneural). Nutrition is supplied to the chondrocytes by diffusion. The compression of the articular cartilage or flexion of the elastic cartilage generates fluid flow, which assists diffusion of nutrients to the chondrocytes. Compared to other connective tissues, cartilage has a very slow turnover of its extracellular matrix and does not repair.

There are three different types of cartilage: elastic (A), hyaline (B), and fibrous (C). In elastic cartilage the cells are closer together creating less intercellular space. Elastic cartilage is found in the external ear flaps and in parts of the larynx. Hyaline cartilage has fewer cells than elastic cartilage; there is more intercellular space. Hyaline cartilage is found in the nose, ears, trachea, parts of the larynx, and smaller respiratory tubes. Fibrous cartilage has the fewest cells so it has the most intercellular space. Fibrous cartilage is found in the spine and the menisci.
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