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What is Cartilage?

Niki Acker
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cartilage is a type of connective tissue in the body. It is made of cells called chondrocytes embedded in a matrix, strengthened with fibers of collagen and sometimes elastin, depending on the type. There are three different types: hyaline cartilage, elastic cartilage, and fibrocartilage. This tissue serves to provide structure and support to the body's other tissues without being as hard or rigid as bone. It can also provide a cushioning effect in joints.

This type of tissue is avascular, meaning that it is not supplied by blood vessels; instead, nutrients diffuse through the matrix. Cartilage is usually flexible, again depending on the type. Some of the bodily structures that include it are the ears, nose, ribcage, and intervertebral discs.

Hyaline cartilage makes up the majority of that found in the human body. It lines the bones in joints, helping them to articulate smoothly. This type contains mostly type II collagen fibers.

Elastic cartilage is more flexible than the other types because of the elastin fibers it contains. It is found in the outer ear, the larynx, and the Eustachian tubes, for example. This type provides the perfect balance of structure and flexibility and helps keep tubular structures open.

Fibrocartilage is the strongest and most rigid type of cartilage. It contains more collagen than hyaline, including more type I collagen, which is tougher than type II. Fibrocartilage makes up the intervertebral discs, connects tendons and ligaments to bones, and appears in other high-stress areas. Damaged hyaline cartilage is often replaced with fibrocartilage, which unfortunately does not bear weight as well due to its rigidity.

There are a few disorders associated with cartilage. Chondrodystrophies are a group of disorders in which it is ossified, or transformed into bone. Arthritis is characterized by the degradation of cartilage in the joints, leading to limited movement and pain. Achondroplasia is a disorder resulting in dwarfism. Benign tumors called chondroma can also arise in this tissue.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a The Health Board editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By anon266298 — On May 05, 2012

Which foods contain Glucosamine?

By anon244604 — On Feb 02, 2012

The hyaline cartilage has pericondium and other types don't. Of what importance is this pericondium and why is it only found on hyaline cartilage?

By anon160470 — On Mar 15, 2011

What is cartilage's main importance?

By anon117139 — On Oct 09, 2010

what is the name of the cell type that makes cartilage?

By anon101413 — On Aug 03, 2010

is cartilage soft and can it be squeezed like in your nose and make your nose smaller?

By anon49987 — On Oct 25, 2009

What are the major causes of cartilage injuries?

By anon47442 — On Oct 05, 2009

where does the name come from?

By anon43567 — On Aug 30, 2009

how does cartilage get nourishment?

By anon43452 — On Aug 28, 2009

My head has a two-inch lump on it. Is this dangerous?

By anon38989 — On Jul 29, 2009

what can be done for torn cartilage?

By anon36645 — On Jul 13, 2009

Can you do a cartilage transplant?

Or can the collagen that is found in the different types of cartilage be found naturally anywhere else?

Would there be any hope for replacing, I think Hyaline cartilage from one part of the body to the other, like putting it in the knees, so people could run more.

By bena — On Mar 01, 2009

What does Cartilage form?

By anon24955 — On Jan 21, 2009

what does cartilage look like?

By anon21314 — On Nov 13, 2008

My third rib on the left hand side has decided to grow more cartilage so there is now a lump under my skin, why would this happen?

By bigmetal — On Feb 01, 2008

can the body grow more cartilage, or repair damaged cartilage?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a The Health Board editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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