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What is Areolar Tissue?

By Nicole Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Found throughout the body, areolar tissue is a type of connective tissue. It consists of cells and various properties of the tissue’s intercellular matrix. Cushioning surrounding organs, connecting different tissues, and supporting blood vessels represent just a few of the functions of this specific connective tissue.

Areolar tissue is composed of several cell types. Among the mix of cells are adipose cells, better known as fat cells, mast cells and macrophages. The remaining composition includes leukocytes and plasma cells.

Like other loose connective tissues, areolar connective tissue consists of three different types of fibers. These fibers include collagenous fibers, elastic fibers and reticular fibers. Together these fibers make up the traditional weaved appearance of areolar, and other loose connective tissues.

The intercellular matrix of areolar tissue is composed of the matrix of collagenous, elastic and reticular fibers and ground substance. Proteins and proteoglycans contribute to the makeup of ground substance. Ground substance works to hold together the various properties of this tissue.

Various cells and properties of the intercellular matrix of this tissue can be seen under a microscope. Under the microscope collagenous, elastic, and reticular fibers appear as pink bands of varying widths arranged in no distinct pattern. Fibroblasts may appear as dark dots with finger-like extensions. The surrounding substance, referred to as the ground substance, appears as a light stain on microscope slides but may be difficult to see.

Organs throughout the body rely on connective tissue for support. The largest organ in the human body, the skin, depends on the pliable, fluid-filled tissue to provide assistance with protecting the organs and other structures located within the human body. In addition, you can find areolar tissue working in conjunction with the epithelial tissues of the body.

Epithelial membranes, the term for the convergence of epithelial and connective tissues, line the various cavities of the human body, such as the abdomen and nasal cavities, and also line interior organs. Blood vessels arising from the areolar tissue provide nutrition to the epithelial tissue found inside body cavities and lining organs. This tissue also transfers waste from the epithelial tissue and destroys harmful pathogens.

Since areolar tissue can be found lining blood vessels, the tissue also reaches into organs, muscles and tendons. Along with the job of supplying blood to the epithelial tissue, it provides leukocytes when necessary. Leukocytes fight infection within the cavities, organs and tissues of the human body.

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Discussion Comments
By kylee07drg — On Jul 21, 2011

Areolar tissue seems protective yet laid back at the same time. It has enough strength to hold different kinds of tissue together, yet it is cushiony enough to offer support.

It is interlaced, yet it is flexible. Since the fibers have a loose organization, they allow for movement of the areas bound by the areolar tissue.

Kind of like a good mother, areolar tissue provides guidance and personal space at the same time. It is nurturing with its blood vessels, but it offers plenty of room for movement.

By StarJo — On Jul 21, 2011

I did not know until reading this that the areolar tissue contained macrophages. We just finished a biology study session on these, and they are helpful little cells.

Macrophages are a kind of white blood cell. They eat foreign elements in the body. By doing this, they aid in the destruction of bacteria and tumor cells.

They regulate the immune system and help with wound healing. They also can stimulate other types of immune system cells by releasing substances. With things like protective and fat-burning adipose tissue and disease-fighting microphages, areolar tissue has quite a healthy composition!

By cloudel — On Jul 20, 2011

@oceana - Did you know that not all adipose tissue is the same? This areolar tissue comes in white and brown, and both have different functions.

I became curious about how fat cells insulate our bodies after I lost weight and noticed how much colder I seemed to stay. This is when I found out what happens in the adipose tissue.

White fat cells store the calories that we don’t use right away for energy. They gather around thighs, hips, and the belly. This is the kind people try to rid themselves of through diets and exercise.

Brown fat cells gather around the neck, collarbone, and shoulder blade. They burn the extra fat calories instead of storing them. By doing this, they keep the body warm.

By Oceana — On Jul 19, 2011

As humans concerned primarily with appearances, we often view fat cells negatively. When you think about it, though, adipose tissue is such a good thing. This kind of areolar tissue keeps your organs from banging into your bones and bruising during daily activities.

Without adipose tissue, imagine the consequences of dancing, horseback riding, or any type of exercise. We would all have to sit still to preserve our bodies!

I jumped on the trampoline very much as a kid. I cannot imagine what that would have done to my internal organs had I not had adipose tissue to cushion them.

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