Anatomy of cartilage tissue
Dr. Michael Lehmann

The functions of cartilage

Cartilage is an extremely high-quality material that covers all of the major joint surfaces in the human body. On the one hand, high impacts are absorbed very effectively, while on the other the cartilage tissue in combination with the fluid in the joint allows the joint surfaces to glide precisely, which is actually the only way in which precise movement sequences become possible.

Cartilage tissue is made up of cartilage cells and an intracellular substance that, in younger people, is made up of over 60% water and is rich in collagen fibres and hyaluronic acid. This intercellular substance plays a key role in cartilage's special mechanical properties.


Why is cartilage so bad at healing?

Cartilage tissue has extremely poor self-healing abilities. This is due to the fact that joint cartilage, unlike many other types of tissue, contains no blood vessels. The blood is therefore unable to transport nutrients to it. Nutrients are supplied almost exclusively via the synovial fluid, however this diffuses only slowly into the cartilage tissue. The stressing and relieving of joints improves the cells' supply of nutrients.


Danger of osteoarthritis

Small damage from two millimetres upwards can expand over the long term since the cells gradually die off. This means that even the tiniest cartilage damage can lead to wear and tear of the joint, i.e. osteoarthritis.

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