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Compare the structure and function of loose and dense connective tissue?
How might these functions be compromised in disease?
The connective tissue consists of two main components; various cell types which are either migratory or resident and the extracellular matrix which is made up of fibres and macromolecules. This tissue can be subdivided into two main types depending on the relative amounts of cells, fibres and macromolecules found in the tissue. The first type is known as 'loose connective tissue' whereas the second type is known as the 'dense connective tissue.' The main structural difference between the two is that the loose connective tissue has many cells and loosely arranged fibres, whereas dense connective tissue is formed by a fewer cells but more numerous and thicker fibres. As a result of these differences the functions of both types of these tissues varies and therefore the amount and type of these connective tissues varies in different locations of the body. Loose connective tissue is a category of connective tissue that includes areolar tissue, reticular tissue and adipose tissue. Areolar tissue is the main component that fills space in body parts and it acts as a supporting matrix for tissues that are normally under pressure or have low friction. The epithelium lies on a layer of loose connective tissue which supports it and also connects it to other tissues such as muscle. The main role of the loose connective tissue is that is provides a supporting matrix for blood vessels which supplements the epithelial tissue with nutrition, allows for the removal of waste and also enables the epithelial cells to fight infection. The loose connective tissue is also found in the hypodermis of the skin which allows the skin to move over the layer of muscle which lies underneath it. Another key role is that it sheaths lymphatic and blood vessels, muscle fibres and surrounds organs. The sheath forms a structure known as 'fascia' which in muscle creates a sliding and gliding environment whereas in blood vessels provides a supportive structure which also enables movement when blood passes through and also protects the pathway of blood. The supportive function of the loose connective tissue is due to it being structurally delicate, weak and flexible. This main type of cells that are found within this tissue is fibroblasts and mast cells. Fibroblasts are resident cells with irregular branching and its main function is to secrete fibrous proteins and glycosaminoglycans that make up the extracellular matrix. In loose connective tissue, the main type of fibrous proteins that are synthesised by the fibroblasts are elastic fibres but a small amount of collagen and reticular fibres are also produced. Elastic fibres are made of the protein elastin which is made of subunits of coiled polymers of tropoelastin. The elastin fibres are then cross linked to form a 3D meshwork structure. Elastic fibres are formed when microfibrils of glycoprotiens attach to the elastin. Having a large proportion of elastic fibres allows the loose connective tissue to have elastic
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