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Connective Tissue

General Features Two basic elements: CELLS and an extracellular MATRIX The MATRIX is made with a ground substance and fibers Not very cellular compared to the other types of tissue Does not occur on body surfaces Has a nerve supply, except cartilage Usually highly vascular except cartilage (avascular) tendons and ligaments Various tissue types confer a variety of functions

Types of Connective Tissue Cells

Fibroblasts- produce and

secrete fibrous proteins and ground substance

Leukocytes- white blood

cells, several different types, function in immunity Thrombocytes- blood platelets, aid in blood clot formation Chondroblasts- produce and secrete fibers and ground substance in cartilage Chondrocytes- maintains the matrix of cartilage Osteoblasts- produce and secrete fibers and ground substance in bone Osteocytes- maintains the extracellular matrix of bone

Macrophages- phagocytic
cells that engulf and digest foreign particles

Plasma Cells- produce


Mast Cells- produce

histamine, which dialates blood vessels, and heparin, an anticoagulant

Adipocytes- store fat Erythrocytes- red blood

cells, transport oxygen

Connective Tissue Extracellular Matrix

Ground substance can be

Fluid Semifluid Gelatinous Hard

Collagen strong, thick yet flexible Elastic smaller in diameter than collagen, branch to form a network within the tissue, very elastic Reticular also made with collagen, but much thinner than collagen fibers, provide support and strength and form the basement membrane

Three Types of Fibers

Two Major Types of Connective Tissue


found in the embryo and


present in newborns to adults

Types of Mature Connective Tissue

Loose Connective Tissue

areolar reticular adipose regular irregular elastic hyaline elastic fibrocartilage

Dense Connective Tissue


Bone Blood Lymph

Loose Connective Tissue

In Loose Connective Tissue, the fibers in the extracellular matrix are loosely arranged. Lots of ground substance. The ground substance in semifluid (viscous). Cells are scattered throughout the tissue. Not very cellular. Some cells reside permanently in the matrix; cells involved in immunity enter the matrix from blood and are transient. Loose Connective Tissue includes: Areolar Connective Tissue Adipose Tissue Reticular Connective Tissue

Areolar Connective Tissue

All three fibers (collagen, elastin and reticular) and several kinds of cells, including fibroblasts, adipocytes and cells of the immune system, are embedded in a semifluid ground substance Areolar is the most abundant type of connective tissue Found in the subcutaneous layer deep to skin, superficial part of dermis, mucus membranes, around blood vessels, nerves and body organs Function: supports glandular epithelium and mesothelial layers of mesentery, supports immune cells

Areolar Connective Tissue

Reticular Connective Tissue

The dominant fiber is recticular fiber. Reticulocytes are fibroblasts that produce more reticular fiber than collagen. The ground substance is semifluid. Found in lymph nodes and other nonmuscular organs Provides a support structure for macrophages and other cells involved in immunity.

Reticular Connective Tissue

Adipose Tissue
Contains fibers, fibroblasts and adipocytes embedded in a semifluid ground substance. Has a great number of adipocytes and very little matrix. Adipocytes can appear empty on slides. Surrounds organs, abundant in the greater omentum Function: provides storage for energy-rich lipids, cushioning and insulation for organs

Adipose Tissue

Dense Connective Tissue

The extracellular matrix consists of tightly packed fibers that form bundles. Very little semi-fluid (viscous) ground substance. Fibroblasts are squeezed between the fiber bundles Three types of Dense CT Dense Regular CT Dense Irregular CT Dense Elastic CT

Dense Regular Connective Tissue

The extracellular matrix consists of tightly packed parallel bundles of collagen fibers with very little ground substance. Fibroblasts are squeezed between the collagen bundles Makes up tendons and ligaments

Function: provides resistance to pulling forces while providing flexibility

Dense Regular Connective Tissue Tendon

Dense Irregular Connective Tissue

The matrix has little ground substance and few fibroblasts. The matrix is packed with bundles of collagen fibers which are irregularly arranged (i.e. not in parallel to each other). Found in the dermis of the skin

Function: Provides strength and support of organs

Dense Irregular Connective Tissue

Dense Elastic Connective Tissue

Extracellular matrix is packed with elastic fibers, which mostly run parallel to each other, few fibroblasts and consists of very little ground substance. Found in the aorta

Function: allows tissue to be stretched and then regain its original size and shape

Elastic Connective Tissue in the Aorta

The extracellular matrix consists of collagen and elastic fibers embedded into a gelatinous ground substance. Chondroblasts secrete fibers and ground substance and become isolated in spaces called lacunae (little lakes or pools) and then transform into chodrocytes. Cartilage is avascular and receives nutrients through diffusion from adjacent vascular tissue Does not have a nerve supply

Hyaline Cartilage
Contains collagen fibers which are thin and not visible with a compound light microscope, where the matrix appears smooth and homogenous. Hyaline cartilage appears glassy to the eye. Chondrocytes are found in lacunae. The most abundant type of cartilage in the body. Found at the end of bones (articular), attaching ribs to the sternum (costal), in the nose (nasal) and in the trachea and bronchi. Function: provides support, reduces friction from moving bones, provides flexibility that allows movement without fracture

Hyaline Cartilage

Elastic Cartilage
The matrix is packed mostly with elastic fibers. Chondrocytes are located in lacunae. Ground substance is gelatinous. Found in the external ear and epiglottis of the larynx Function: provides flexible support

Elastic Cartilage

Extracellular matrix is packed with thick collagen fibers. Has fewer lacunae and chrondrocytes than the other types of cartilage. Found in intervertebral discs and the menisci of the knees

Function: provides cushioning and reduces friction


Compact Bone
The extracellular matrix consists of collagen fibers and a hard ground substance in which inorganic salts, mostly calcium and phosphorus salts, are deposited. Osteocytes are located in lacunae, much like the spaces in cartilage. Because the ground tissue is hard in bone and diffusion and osmosis is nearly impossible, little canals, or canaliculi serve as passages ways for nutrients and wastes as they connect the lacunae to larger canals that contain blood vessels.

The matrix is organized and develops in layers called lamellae. The lamellae form concentric rings that make up a structure called an osteon. A single bone may have several hundreds and even thousands of osteons. In the center of each osteon is a large central canal, sometimes referred to as a Haversian Canal, which contains blood vessels and nerves Found in the skeleton of all vertebrates. Function: protects and provides support for body organs, provides levers to make movement possible, support for the body.

Ground Compact Bone

The ground substance is a straw-colored fluid called plasma. Suspended in the plasma are erythrocytes, or red blood cells, leucocytes, or white blood cells, and thrombocytes, or platelets. Fibers are only present during clotting. Found in blood vessels throughout the body. Function: transports nutrients and vital molecules, wastes and molecular signals (hormones, etc.) throughout the body.

Human Blood