Types of Fibrous Connective Tissue

Fibrous connective tissue is divided into two broad categories according to the relative abundance of fiber: loose and dense connective tissue. In loose connective tissue, much of the space is occupied by ground substance, which is dissolved out of the tissue during histological fixation and leaves empty space in prepared tissue sections. The loose connective tissues we will discuss are areolar, reticular, and adipose tissue. In dense connective tissue, fiber occupies more space than the cells and ground substance, and appears closely packed in tissue sections. The two dense connective tissues we will discuss are dense regular and dense irregular connective tissue.

Areolar14 (AIR-ee-OH-lur) tissue exhibits loosely organized fibers, abundant blood vessels, and a lot of seemingly empty space. It possesses all six of the aforementioned cell types. Its fibers run in random directions and are mostly

13ret = network + icul = little

Saladin: Anatomy & I 5. Histology I Text I I © The McGraw-Hill

Physiology: The Unity of Companies, 2003 Form and Function, Third Edition collagenous, but elastic and reticular fibers are also present. Areolar tissue is highly variable in appearance. In many serous membranes, it looks like figure 5.15, but in the skin and mucous membranes, it is more compact (see fig. 5.8) and sometimes difficult to distinguish from dense irregular connective tissue. Some advice on how to tell them apart is given after the discussion of dense irregular connective tissue.

Areolar tissue is found in tissue sections from almost every part of the body. It surrounds blood vessels and nerves and penetrates with them even into the small spaces of muscles, tendons, and other tissues. Nearly every epithelium rests on a layer of areolar tissue, whose blood vessels provide the epithelium with nutrition, waste removal, and a ready supply of infection-fighting WBCs in times of need. Because of the abundance of open, fluid-filled space, WBCs can move about freely in areolar tissue and can easily find and destroy pathogens.

Reticular tissue is a mesh of reticular fibers and fibro-blasts. It forms the structural framework (stroma) of such organs and tissues as the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, and bone marrow. The space amid the fibers is filled with blood cells. If you imagine a kitchen sponge soaked with blood, the sponge fibers would be analogous to the reticular tissue stroma.

Adipose tissue, or fat, is tissue in which adipocytes are the dominant cell type. Adipocytes may also occur singly or in small clusters in areolar tissue. Adipocytes usually range from 70 to 120 ^m in diameter, but they may be five times as large in obese people. The space between adipocytes is occupied by areolar tissue, reticular tissue, and blood capillaries.

Fat is the body's primary energy reservoir. The quantity of stored triglyceride and the number of adipocytes are quite stable in a person, but this doesn't mean stored fat is stagnant. New triglycerides are constantly synthesized and stored as others are hydrolyzed and released into circulation. Thus, there is a constant turnover of stored triglyceride, with an equilibrium between synthesis and hydrolysis, energy storage and energy use. Adipose tissue also provides thermal insulation, and it contributes to body contours such as the female breasts and hips. Most adipose tissue is a type called white fat, but fetuses, infants, and children also have a heat-generating tissue called brown fat, which accounts for up to 6% of an infant's weight. Brown fat gets its color from an unusual abundance of blood vessels and certain enzymes in its mitochondria. It stores lipid in the form of multiple droplets rather than one large one. Brown fat has numerous mitochondria, but their oxidation pathway is not linked to ATP synthesis. Therefore, when these cells oxidize fats, they release all of the energy as heat. Hibernating animals accumulate brown fat in preparation for winter.

Table 5.4 summarizes the three types of loose fibrous connective tissues.

Chapter 5 Histology 169

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