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What Is Cartilage?

Elbow joint with cartilage shown in light-violet.
Elastic cartilage is found in the larynx.
Hyaline cartilage connects the ribs to the sternum.
The outer ear contains elastic cartilage.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2014
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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.

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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.

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Discuss this Article

anon266298
Post 26

Which foods contain Glucosamine?

anon244604
Post 23

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?

anon160470
Post 22

What is cartilage's main importance?

anon117139
Post 20

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

anon101413
Post 19

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

anon49987
Post 14

What are the major causes of cartilage injuries?

anon47442
Post 12

where does the name come from?

anon43567
Post 11

how does cartilage get nourishment?

anon43452
Post 10

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

anon38989
Post 9

what can be done for torn cartilage?

anon36645
Post 8

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.

bena
Post 7

What does Cartilage form?

anon24955
Post 4

what does cartilage look like?

anon21314
Post 3

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?

bigmetal
Post 1

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

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