Nose cartilage is tough, flexible connective tissue that forms the tip of the nose. It includes the lateral nasal cartilages, the lesser alar cartilages, the greater alar cartilages, and the septal cartilage. Cartilage is a strong, translucent, elastic tissue that is present in several parts of the body and has no nerves or blood vessels running through it. The tissue in the nose is composed of hyaline cartilage, a slick, rubbery tissue also found in the outer ear, trachea, larynx, and the connections between bones. The shape of these tissues determines the shape of the nose.
Feeling the nose, a person will notice that the upper nose is hard and inflexible until just past the midpoint, when it becomes slightly bendable, though still firm. This change represents the point at which the cartilage begins and the bones end. The top, middle part of the nose consists of two small, rectangular bones called the nasal bones. The sides of the bony section of the nose are formed by the ridges of the maxilla, or the upper jawbone.
Additional bones create the nasal septum, a wall that divides the nose into two passageways. The vomer bone and the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone create the greater part of this wall, while the ridge of the maxilla and the palatine bone form the bottom of the septum. Toward the tip of the nose, the nasal septum is composed of cartilage instead of bone. The cartilage of the septum, also called septal cartilage or quadrangular cartilage, connects with the ethmoid bone and the vomer bone at its posterior end, or its rear-most part. The quadrangular cartilage extends almost to the tip of the nose, forming part of the flexible plate that divides the two canals in the nose.
The lateral cartilages are a paired set of triangular tissues that extend like wings from the top of the septal nose cartilage, creating the slope of the sides of the nose. The greater alar cartilages, also called the lower lateral cartilages, are another paired set whose shape determines the appearance of the very tip of the nose. These cartilages form the outside walls of the nose on one side and form a medial, or center, wall on their other sides. The lateral, or side-most, wall of the greater alar cartilage is continuous with the ala of the nose.
The ala of the nose is the soft, flaring portion of flesh that surrounds the nostril. It is composed of mostly fatty, fibrous tissue. Just posterior to this portion and the greater alar cartilages on each side lie the lesser alar cartilages. These paired tissues form the c-shaped indent behind the ala and connect with the maxilla at its posterior end.
Nose cartilage is composed of hyaline cartilage, which consists of living chondrocytes, or cartilage cells, suspended in liquid-filled spaces called lacunae. The lacunae are suspended in a rubbery, collagenous substance called the matrix. Hyaline cartilage is semi-transparent, tough, flexible, and serves several purposes in the body. It often lines joints to reduce friction between bones, supports tubes such as the wind-pipe so that they can stay open, and is instrumental in longitudinal bone growth. The function of this cartilage in the nose is to support the openings of the body part while remaining flexible.