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Dense connective tissue

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Describe and identify dense connective tissue in histological sections.
  2. Name the different types of dense connective tissue.
  3. Understand the histological structure of the tendon and its sheath.

Watch video

Dense connective tissue has both fewer cells and less ground substance than loose connective tissue. It consists largely of collagen fibers that are tightly bundled together. In contrast to loose connective tissue, the collagen fiber bundles are not randomly distributed, but are usually oriented in the direction of forces exerted on the particular body part where the tissue is located (tensile stress). 

Tendons, for example, are dense connective tissues that connect muscle to bone. They transmit forces generated by muscles to move joints.

Dense connective tissue can be further split into dense regular connective tissue and dense irregular connective tissue.

  • The dense regular connective tissue is found in tendons, aponeuroses and ligaments, where the tissue is only stressed in one direction. Here the collagen fiber bundles are arranged in a regular parallel fashion and have specialized fibroblasts lying in between them. 
  • The dense irregular connective tissue contains thick collagen fiber bundles, which are irregularly arranged in a compact interwoven web, and is found enclosing organs where the tissue is stressed in different directions. This is the case, for example, in the reticular layer of the dermis, in the pericardium and in capsules of internal organs (kidney, spleen, liver).

Watch the following video to learn more about the types and composition of dense connective tissue:

Browse atlas

Inspect the individual components of dense connective tissue in the following image gallery:

Now, let us look at an example of dense connective tissue, the tendon.

Now you can see each structure in more detail with our image gallery below:

Take a quiz

That was a lot of new information! Solidify your newly acquired knowledge by taking the quiz below:

To adjust your focus and choose the topics you’ll get quizzed on, try out our customizable quiz.

Now, it is time to dive deeper and test your knowledge on the structure of a tendon and its tendon sheath to identify weak spots.

Do you want more questions or more topics in your quiz about the musculoskeletal system in general? No worries, you can design your quiz and choose your topics with the custom quiz below.

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