Cartilage is a type of hard, thick, slippery tissue that coats the ends of bones where they meet with other bones to form a joint. Cartilage lines the joint space between bones throughout the body, including the spine and the rib cage. It acts as a protective cushion between bones to absorb the stress applied to joints during movement.
Cartilage is made up of protein strands called collagen that form a tough, meshlike framework. The mesh is filled with substances that hold water, much like a sponge. When weight is placed on cartilage, water is squeezed out of the mesh. When weight is taken off, the water returns. Cartilage does not contain blood vessels or nerves.
Last Revised: April 5, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Freddie H. Fu, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
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