Structural Makeup of Cartilage

Dr. Alimorad Farshchian, medical director at the Center for Regenerative Medicine in Florida, has treated many patients suffering from osteoarthritis and other forms of cartilage damage. Dr. Alimorad Farshchian uses cell therapy to help these patients regenerate new and healthy cartilage.

As a connective tissue, cartilage plays a key role in the body’s structural composition. It is firm, dense, and sturdy yet soft and flexible as compared to bone. Its complex microstructure sends out specialized chondrocyte cells, which rest in a gel-like matrix of collagen, elastin, and protoglycan. The specific nature of this matrix and its properties depend on the location and function of the cartilage.

Hyaline cartilage is located near weight-bearing joints. Flexible, strong, and able to distribute weight, it is also difficult to regrow if damaged. The cartilage that lies on the surface of the bone is a specialized kind of hyaline cartilage known as articular cartilage, which consists of four layers to protect the underlying structure and facilitate movement.

Inside the knee, in the pubic symphysis, and between the vertebrae lies a tougher and less flexible cartilage. Much more flexible is elastic cartilage, which provides support to the external ear as well as the epiglottis and larynx. All cartilage is free of blood vessels and thus depends on diffusion to draw nutrients, which means that when damaged it can take significant time to heal.