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Major Types of Cartilage

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  • 0:02 What Is Cartilage?
  • 1:14 Hyaline Cartilage
  • 2:15 Fibrocartilage
  • 3:06 Elastic Cartilage
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Cartilage is an important tissue in your body that covers the ends of long bones, acts as a shock absorber in your spine, and protects and supports many body structures. In this lesson, you will learn about the three types of cartilage.

What is Cartilage?

Cartilage is a type of rigid connective tissue that provides support to many structures in your body, like your nose, trachea, and ears. Cartilage also covers the ends of long bones to protect the bone from damage in joints and forms the model for developing bones and bones that are healing following a fracture. Cartilage is more flexible and less rigid than bone tissue, and as a result, is found in areas of your body that need structure but also need to have some flexibility.

The cells that make cartilage are called chondrocytes. Chondrocytes produce an extracellular matrix that is made of collagen fibers embedded in a gel-like ground substance of proteoglycan and elastin fibers. As cartilage forms, chondrocytes produce more and more extracellular matrix until they eventually become completely surrounded. They then are left sitting in small openings within the extracellular matrix, called lacunae. Cartilage is classified based on the relative amount and type of collagen and elastin fibers that are present in the extracellular matrix.

Hyaline Cartilage

Hyaline cartilage is very smooth and contains mostly type II collagen fibers in its extracellular matrix. The word 'hyaline' means 'clear,' and hyaline cartilage is a translucent blue color with a smooth, glassy appearance.

It is the most abundant type of cartilage in the human body, and in adults, is found in the nose, the ends of the ribs, the larynx and trachea, and the ends of long bones, where it is known as articular cartilage. In babies and children, hyaline cartilage is also found in the growth plates where it is slowly turned into bone tissue as the bones grow longer with age.

Hyaline cartilage is very smooth and slippery. In your joints, it covers the ends of the long bones and helps reduce friction between bones in the joint. Because hyaline cartilage does not have its own blood supply, it does not heal well if it is damaged. Over time, damaged hyaline cartilage can lead to a painful joint condition called arthritis.

Fibrocartilage

Fibrocartilage contains a large amount of fibrous tissue made of both type I and type II collagen. Although it has the same type of collagen as hyaline cartilage, the arrangement of collagen fibers in fibrocartilage is different and this makes it less smooth but more strong and tough. Fibrocartilage is the densest and most tough type of cartilage, and it's found in areas of the body that experience a lot of wear and tear, such as the intervertebral discs and the meniscus in the knee joint.

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