What are chondrocytes? (with photos)

Chondrocytes make up the cellular matrix of cartilage, which is found in the body.

Chondrocytes are mature cells found in cartilage. They constitute the cellular matrix of cartilage, performing a number of functions within the tissue, including facilitating fluid exchange across the gelatinous layers. Since cartilage lacks vascularity, it depends on this exchange to receive nutrients and express waste. Fully mature chondrocytes tend to be round and may cluster in small groups within the cartilage network.

Transplants are available to treat problems with cartilage.

The progenitors of these cells arise in the bone marrow, in a stem cell form. Stem cells are capable of differentiating into several different cell types depending on the need. When they differentiate into cartilage cells, they begin as chondroblasts, actively producing secretions of chondrin, the primary substance of cartilage, to build and repair tissue. Once a chondroblast is fully surrounded, it becomes a mature chondrocyte. These cells can be found in tiny gaps within the cartilage known as lacunae.

Chondrocytes are not capable of cell division. They can produce secretions to support and repair the cartilage matrix and, as discussed above, facilitate the exchange of materials between the cartilage and surrounding material. Depending on the type of cartilage the cell is in, it may have a slightly different composition; elastic, hyaline and fibrocartilage are all unique, designed to meet the body’s various needs.

More flexible than bones and tougher than muscles, cartilage can be found in many areas of the body. It is usually present around the joints and can also be found in the ears. Under normal circumstances, cartilage wears out over time and chondrocytes replace and repair it as needed. There are situations where the cartilage can become so damaged that the cells are unable to repair it, however, as seen in the case of surgeries where the cartilage must be scraped off to correct a problem or access a surgical site. In other cases, the body doesn’t heal properly, even though it should, and the cartilage doesn’t repair itself as a result.

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Transplants are available to treat problems with cartilage. Sometimes, the transplant can be done with the patient’s own cells, and in other cases, the preparation can use someone else’s cells. Cartilage replacement after a serious injury or major surgery can be important for more complete healing, which can make transplantation one of the patient and care team’s steps on the road to recovery.

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