Function of Areolar Connective Tissue

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  • 0:01 What Is Connective Tissue?
  • 0:40 What Is Areolar…
  • 2:49 Function & Location
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Phenix
In this lesson, you'll explore what areolar connective tissue is, what elements compose the structure of this tissue, where it is found in the body. You'll also discover what unique functions this tissue serves within your body.

What Is Connective Tissue?

The name 'connective tissue' sounds like a pretty self-explanatory one, but these tissues do a bit more than just connect things. Connective tissues (CT) are tissues that connect, support, anchor, or separate different tissues or organs within the body. It is one of four main classes of tissue in the body, with nervous tissue, muscle tissue, and epithelial tissues accounting for the other three. There are six main types of connective tissues, which include fibrous (dense irregular and dense regular), adipose (fat), cartilage, bone, blood, and loose (reticular and areolar).

What Is Areolar Connective Tissue?

The term areolar connective tissue means tissue with 'small open spaces' (areola) and refers to the appearance of small airy pockets between the network of cells and fibers. Within this tissue there are three main types of cells (fibroblasts, white blood cells, and mast cells), three types of fibers (collagen fibers, elastin fibers, and reticular fibers), and a background fluid matrix that all the elements sit in, called ground substance.

Fibroblast cells are the cells responsible for synthesizing (creating) the collagen, elastin, and reticular fibers of the tissue.

White blood cells are the defense and clean-up crew of the tissue. They phagocytize, or consume and breakdown, cell debris and any bacteria or microbes that they interact with.

Mast cells are responsible for synthesizing histamines, which act as an immune response to allergens and result in tissue inflammation.

Collagen fibers are the thickest of the fibers within areolar tissue. They are one part of a two-part 'rubber band' system within the tissue. Collagen fibers provide the tissue with a high degree of stretch while protecting the tissue from tearing through its high tensile strength, meaning it can withstand a high degree of stretch without tearing.

Elastin fibers appear as thin dark fibers in a cross-section of the tissue. They are the second part of the 'rubber band' system, which has a higher degree of elastic stretch than collagen alone and allows your skin to 'bounce back.' Elastin fibers also protect the tissue from tearing by limiting the amount of distention (stretching) so that the collagen fibers won't break from being forced to their tensile limits.

Reticular fibers (meaning 'small net') are the fine, net-like fibers that provide a supporting framework for the cells of the tissue.

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