There are several diseases which can affect the cartilage. Chondrodystrophies are a group of diseases characterized by disturbance of growth and subsequent ossification of cartilage. Some common diseases affecting/involving the cartilage are listed below.
- Osteoarthritis: The cartilage covering bones (articular cartilage) is thinned, eventually completely worn out, resulting in a "bone against bone" joint, reduced motion and pain. Ost, affects the joints exposed to high stress and is therefore considered the result of "wear and tear" rather than a true disease. It is treated by Arthroplasty, the replacement of the joint by a synthetic joint often made of a Stainless Steel alloy (cobalt chromoly) and High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (HMWPE). Chondroitin sulfate, a monomer of the polysaccharide portion of proteoglycan, has been shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, possibly by increasing the synthesis of the extracellular matrix.
- Traumatic rupture or detachment: The cartilage in the knee is frequently damaged, and can be partially repaired through knee cartilage replacement therapy
- Achondroplasia: Reduced proliferation of chondrocytes in the epiphyseal plate of long bones during infancy and childhood, resulting in dwarfism.
- Costochondritis: Inflammation of cartilage in the ribs, causing chest pain.
- Spinal disc herniation : Asymmetrical compression of an intervertebral disc ruptures the sac-like disc, causing a herniation of its soft content. The hernia often compresses the adjacent nerves and causes back pain.
- Relapsing polychondritis: a destruction, probably autoimmune, of cartilage, especially of the nose and ears, causing disfiguration. Death occurs by suffocation as the larynx loses its rigidity and collapses.
Tumors made up of cartilage tissue, either benign or malignant, can occur. They usually appear in bone, rarely in pre-existing cartilage. The benign tumors are called chondroma, the malignant ones chondrosarcoma. Tumors arising from other tissues may also produce a cartilage-like matrix, the best known being pleomorphic adenoma of the salivary glands.
The matrix of cartilage acts as a barrier, preventing the entry of lymphocytes or diffusion of immunoglobulins. This property allows for the transplantation of cartilage from one individual to another without fear of tissue rejection.
Cartilage has limited repair capabilities, because chondrocytes are bound in lacunae, they cannot migrate to damaged areas. Therefore if damaged, it is difficult to heal. Also, because hyaline cartilage does not have a blood supply, the deposition of new matrix is slow. Damaged hyaline cartilage is usually replaced by fibrocartilage scar tissue. Over the last years, surgeons and scientists have elaborated a series of cartilage repair procedures that help to postpone the need for joint replacement.
Bioengineering techniques are being developed to generate new cartilage, using a cellular "scaffolding" material and cultured cells to grow artificial cartilage.
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