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Introduction to Connective Tissue: Gels and Fibers

Introduction to Connective Tissue: Gels and Fibers

Author: Aaron Mullally

- know what morphological characteristics to look for when identifying connective tissues

- understand what the extracellular matrix (ECM) is

- know that when I say fiber I'm referring to a protein

- know what the major fibers of CT are

- be able to identify the functional and structural differences between the different fibers

- understand what tensile force is

- know what elasticity is (stretch and recoil)

This packet is about the non-living components of connective tissues (CT). When it comes to identifying connective tissues you have to focus on two major components, the non-living extracellular matrix (gels and fibers) and the cellular composition. The next packet will focus on the cellular composition and functions of CT.

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Overview of Connective Tissue

Connective tissue is the most variable type of tissue in the body. It is widely spaced and spread out throughout the entire body. Connective tissue is found filling spaces, connecting other organs and cells together, it used for transportation and gives us structure, plus it's used to store energy. One distinct characteristic of connective tissue is that it is made of gels and fibers. When you mix proteins with water you get sticky gels.

There are three main types of fibers that make up connective tissue, collagen, elastin and reticular fibers. Collagen is a very tough protein that is found areas such as tendons, the sclera (white) of the eye, ligaments, bone and so on. It is very resistant to stretch and tensile forces, so if enough pressure is put on a structure that is made of collagen it will break. Elastin is a very thin protein found in places such as blood vessel walls and the lungs. This is a protein fiber that has very elastic properties, when you apply pressure to elastic structures they will stretch and once you relieve the pressure they will recoil back to their original shape. Reticular fibers are found within lymph nodes and the spleen. Reticular fibers are also widely spaced with many white blood cells found within the spaces. Reticular fibers are what form the framework of these lymphatic structures/tissues.

Source: Self made

How to Identify Connective Tissue: Gels & Fibers

In this video I go over one of the two major ways to identify connective tissues; by looking at the non-living components within the extracellular matrix of the tissue. Remember, gels and fibers!

Source: Self made

Gels & Fibers

Here are some high points to pay attention to while learning about the ECM of CT

Source: Self made