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Connective tissue is one of the four types of tissue in traditional classifications (the others being epithelial, muscle, and nervous tissue.) It is largely a category of exclusion rather than one with a precise definition, but all or most tissues in this category are similarly:

  • Involved in structure and support.
  • Derived from mesoderm, usually.
  • Characterized largely by the traits of non-living tissue.

Blood, cartilage, and bone are usually considered connective tissue, but because they differ so substantially from the other tissues in this class, the phrase "connective tissue proper" is commonly used to exclude those three. There is also variation in the classification of embryonic connective tissues; on this page they will be treated as a third and separate category.

Collagen is the main protein of connective tissue in animals and the most abundant protein in mammals, making up about 25% of the total protein content.[1]


Connective tissue proper

Connective tissue proper

  • Areolar (or loose) connective tissue holds organs and epithelia in place, and has a variety of proteinaceous fibres, including collagen and elastin.
  • Fibrous connective tissue forms ligaments and tendons. Its densely packed collagen fibers have great tensile strength.

Specialized connective tissues

File:Illu connective tissues 2.jpg

Specialized connective tissues

Embryonic connective tissues

  • Mesenchymal connective tissue
  • Mucous connective tissue

Fiber types

Main article: Connective tissue cells

Fiber types as follows:

  • collagenous fibers
  • elastic fibers
  • reticular fibers

Disorders of connective tissue

Various connective tissue conditions have been identified; these can be both inherited and environmental.

  • Marfan syndrome - a genetic disease causing abnormal fibrillin.
  • Scurvy - caused by a dietary deficiency in vitamin C, leading to abnormal collagen.
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome - deficient type III collagen- a genetic disease causing progressive deterioration of collagens, with different EDS types affecting different sites in the body, such as joints, heart valves, organ walls, arterial walls, etc.
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome - a genetic disease related to Marfan syndrome, with an emphasis on vascular deterioration.
  • Pseudoxanthoma elasticum - an autosomal recessive hereditary disease, caused by calcification and fragmentation of elastic fibres, affecting the skin, the eyes and the cardiovascular system.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus - a chronic, multisystem, inflammatory disorder of probable autoimmune etiology, occurring predominantly in young women.
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) - caused by insufficient production of good quality collagen to produce healthy, strong bones.
  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva - disease of the connective tissue, caused by a defective gene which turns connective tissue into bone.
  • Spontaneous pneumothorax - collapsed lung, believed to be related to subtle abnormalities in connective tissue.
  • Sarcoma - a neoplastic process originating within connective tissue.

Staining of connective tissue

For microscopic viewing, the majority of the connective tissue staining techniques color tissue fibers in contrasting shades. Collagen may be differentially stained by any of the following techniques:

  • Van Gieson's stain
  • Masson's Trichrome stain
  • Mallory's Aniline Blue stain
  • Azocarmine stain
  • Krajian's Aniline Blue stain

See also

External links

Biological tissue
Animals : Epithelium - Connective - Muscular - Nervous
Plants : Epidermis - Vascular tissue - Ground tissue

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