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A chart showing the three types of cartilages: hyaline cartilage (top), fibrocartilage (center) and elastic cartilage (bottom)

Cartilage is a tough, flexible tissue that is the main type of connective tissue in the body. About 65-80% of all cartilage is water, and the rest is a gel-like substance called the matrix that gives it its form and function. The matrix is organized and includes several types of special proteins which are collagens, proteoglycans, and non-collagenous proteins. The proteoglycans and non-collagenous proteins bind the collagen to form a mesh. The water is attracted to this mesh by negatively charged proteins, both these together give the matrix its consistency. There are three main types of cartilage: hyaline, fibro, and elastic cartilage. The articulate cartilage matrix is both produced and maintained by cells called chondrocytes. These cells come from the mesh of connective tissue in the embryo called mesenchyme. Cartilage does not contain blood vessels, nerves, or the lymphatic system. All nutrients must diffuse through the matrix.

What is Cartilage?

Cartilage is a connective tissue that consists of both a dense matrix of collagen fibers and elastic fibers which are embedded in a rubbery ground substance. The matrix is produced by cells called chondroblasts, which become embedded in the matrix as chondrocytes. There are 3 types of cartilage: elastic cartilage, hyaline cartilage, and fibrocartilage. Cartilage is found in joints between bones, elbows, knees, and ankles. It is also found on the ends of the ribs, between the vertebrae in the spine, in the ears, nose, and the bronchial tube or the airways. Cartilage is made up of a specialized type of cell called chondrocytes, the chondrocytes produce large amounts of extracellular matrix that contains collagens fibers, proteoglycan, and elastin fibers. There aren't any blood vessels in cartilage that can produce nutrients for the chondrocytes.[1]


Elastic Cartilage

Image of elastic cartilage in the external ear maintaining the shape of the structure.

Elastic cartilage tissue is found in the auditory tubes, the external ear, and the epiglottis (the lid on the top of the larynx). The structure of elastic cartilage is yellowish in color, the cartilage cells (chondrocytes) are located in a threadlike network of elastic fibers within the matrix of the cartilage and perichondrium is present. The function of elastic cartilage is to provide support to surrounding structures, and it helps both define and maintain the shape of the external ear.[2]


Image of fibrocartilage in the invertebral discs providing strength so it can absorb it can absorb shock.

Fibrocartilage tissue is found in the Calli, the tissue formed between the ends of the bone at the site of a healing fracture. It is found in intervertebral discs which are the discs between the vertebrae of the spine. It is also found in the menisci of the knee joint and in the pubic symphysis, the position at which the hip bones join at the front of the body. And it is also found in portions of the tendons that insert into the cartilage tissue, especially at the joints. The structure of fibrocartilage is a tough form of cartilage that consists of chondrocytes which are scattered among clearly visible dense bundles of collagen fibers within the matrix. It also lacks perichondrium. Its function is to provide support and rigidity to surrounding structures and it is the strongest of the three types of cartilage.[3]

Hyaline Cartilage

Image of hyaline cartilage strengthening and reinforcing the coastal cartilage.

Hyaline cartilage, the most abundant of the three cartilages, is found in bronchial tubes, coastal cartilage, the larynx, the nose, and the trachea. It is also found covering the surface of bones at joints especially in areas where damage where it may lead to osteoarthritis. It is found at the ends of the long bones, and also the anterior ends of the ribs plus the embryonic skeleton. The structure of hyaline cartilage consists of a bluish-white, shiny ground of elastic material with a matrix of chondroitin sulphate into which many fine collagen fibrils are embedded it also contains numerous chondrocytes. Its function is to provide smooth surfaces, which allows tissues to slide easily over each other, facilitating smooth movements in the joints and providing flexibility and support.[4]

Symptoms of damaged Cartilage

People who have damaged cartilage in a joint could experience inflammation that causes the area to swell and feel sore, tender, and painful. One might even experience stiffness. It will also cause ranged limitations which means as the damage to the cartilage progresses the limb that's affected will move so easily and freely. Damage to cartilage most commonly occurs in the knee, the elbow, wrists, ankles, shoulders and hip joint could also be affected. Rarely, a piece of cartilage could break off, and cause the joint to lock. This leads to hemathrosis or bleeding in the joint. The causes for damaged cartilage could be from direct blows, lack of movement, or wear and tear.[5]


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  1. What is Cartillage? News Medical Life Sciences. Web. last accessed April 25, 2018. Unknown Author
  2. Structure and Functions of Cartilage Tissue Ivy Roses Holistic. Web. last accessed May 9, 2018. Unknown Author
  3. Cartilage: The Three Types of Cartilage The History Guide. Web. last accessed May 10, 2018. Unknown Author
  4. Cartilage and Its Types Man Anatomy. Web. last accessed May 8, 2018. Unknown Author
  5. What you need to know about Cartilage damage Medical News Today. Web. last accessed May 16, 2018. Unknown Author