why does cartilage heal slower than bone

Cartilage is a specialized type of connective tissue. It can bear mechanical stresses without permanent distortion. But it is a bit different from the other connective tissues. Cartilages are avascular. That means they have no blood supply. They get nourishment from adjacent connective tissues like from perichondrium or synovial fluid. So, it can easily be imagined that they are always in short of nutrition. Being always in scarcity the cells of cartilage (chondrocytes) exhibit low metabolic activity.


After damage tissues heal by regeneration or scar formation. Chondrocytes are not that able. So, cartilages don't regenerate (except in small children). They heal by scar formation. This is a slow process. Moreover this healing is incomplete. Diagram : Components of cartilage. There are red line denoting capillary in perichondrium (connective tissue adjacent to cartilage).


But no blood vessel in cartilage. The red broken line show the way of nutrients being diffused to cartilage from perichondrium.
The reason that bone injuries heal faster than cartilage injuries is because of the ability of bone cells to respond to injuries and start dividing to repair the injury. Cartilage cells tend to be rather inactive once bone has fully grown and the chondrocytes (specialised cells that live within cartilage) do not respond to injury immediately, and they hardly divide after growth is complete.


Bone cells, on the other hand, are always active, because our bones are constantly being renewed. This process merely speeds up during a bone injury producing chondrocytes that act as a filler. Over a few weeks, specialised cells called osteoclasts ingest these cells and osteoblasts replace them with new bone cells.

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