Histology Guide

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Chapter 5 - Cartilage and Bone

Cartilage and bone are specialized connective tissues that provide support to other tissues and organs. Cartilage occurs where flexibility is required, while bone resists deformation.


Cartilage is composed of cells, fibers, and a highly-hydrated ground substance. The high content of water provides resistance to compression, while the fibers provide tensile strength and resilience.

Cartilage is avascular, and its cells rely on diffusion for nutrients.

Three types of cartilage are recognized based on differences in fiber composition:

Hyaline Cartilage

Hyaline cartilage is composed of type II collagen fibers and ground substance. It is the most common cartilage and is associated with articular surfaces of bone, walls of the respiratory system (trachea and bronchi), and growth plates.


Bone provides support and protection for the organs of the body. Bone is hard and rigid because of mineralization of the extracellular matrix. Bone also serves as a reservoir for calcium.

Bone has a rich vascular supply (unlike cartilage).

Bone tissue is classified morphologically into two types:

Most bones are composed of both compact and spongy bone.

Compact Bone

Compact bone forms a dense layer on the outside of bones. It is composed of cylindrical units, known as osteon (Haversian systems), that are usually aligned with the long axis of the bone. An osteon is composed of concentric rings of bone (lamellae) surrounding a central channel.