Structure and Functions of White Fibrous Tissue
As indicated on the page about classification
of (animal) tissue types, "White
Fibrous Tissue" is a form of
mature (rather than embryonic) connective tissue,
and is one of the forms of Dense Connective
Tissue. There are three (3) types of dense
The 3 forms of Dense Connective Tissue:
"White Fibrous Tissue"
(due to the pale/white colour of the many
collagen fibres that form its structure)
White fibrous tissue is connective tissue in
which there is a greater proportion of white
inelastic fibres than of elastic
fibres. The dominance of the (white, inelastic)
collagen fibres contributes to the considerable
mechanical strength of white fibrous tissue.
Structure of White Fibrous Tissue:
White fibrous tissue is described in the classic
Gray's Anatomy" as "a true
The main constituent of white fibrous connective
tissue is the protein collagen.
White fibrous tissue is dense regular
connective tissue that has a silvery
white colour/appearance and is physically tough,
yet pliable. It consists of fibroblasts interspersed
among many collagen fibres which are often aligned
in the same direction, forming a mechanically
- Collagen fibres are also
known as "collagenous fibres", "white
fibres", and (in American Texts) as "collagen
fibers". They range in diameter from
less than 1 um (1 um = 1 micrometer = 10-6m
= 0.000001 meters ) to about 12 um.
- Fibroblast cells are widely
distributed throughout connective tissues
and are necessary for production of the precursors
of collagen, elastic fibres, and reticular
fibres (which are microscopic, non-elastic
Fibroblast cells (called "fibrocytes")
are often found lying in rows along the bundles
of (white) collagen fibres.
Functions of White Fibrous Tissue:
White fibrous tissue connects
structures that require a mechanically
The main functions of white fibrous tissue
involve supporting and protecting
the surrounding structures.
White fibrous tissue is an important part of
many structures within the body. Its functions
can therefore be identified according to the
type of structure formed by a particular
area of white fibrous tissue. For example, when
in the form of:
- Ligaments, white
fibrous tissue (in this case often with a
higher proportion of elastin fibres to increase
the elasticity/extensibility of the tissue
with minimal compromise to the mechanical
strength of the structure) attaches bones
to other bones.
- Tendons, white
fibrous tissue attaches muscles to bones and/or
- Membranes, white
fibrous tissue protects structures within
the body, including for example, organs such
as the kidneys (in the case of the kidneys,
through the membrane forming the capsule
of the kidney).
Note that some texts classify these tissues
as "dense irregular connective
tissues" because the tissue forming some
membrane capsules is not arranged with as
clearly repeating structure aas that found
in e.g. tendons. However, although the arrangement
of the tissue structures may differ, their
composition (of collagen fibres and fibrocytes)
is still very similar.
Locations in the body:
White fibrous (connective) tissue is present
in many locations throughout the body, including
skin (e.g. dermis),
cartilage and bones.
Specific examples of areas of the body in which
white fibrous tissue may be found include:
- The Eyes - the sclera
(of the eye) is formed of white fibrous tissue
intermixed with fine elastic fibers; flattened
- The Musculo-Skeletal System - e.g. modified
synovial structures, a "bursa" is
a small fluid-filled sac formed from white
fibrous tissue and lined with synovial membrane.
This is not a part of all joints but when
present provides a cushion between bones and
Warning of possible confusion:
Other types of (animal, including human) tissue
include the word "white" in their
name and/or description but do not necessarily
have connection or similarity with the connective
tissue described here as "white
fibrous tissue" - other than
their name, and perhaps to some extent their
Other "White" tissues:
The following are listed for reference and
Blood Cells (leucocytes)
The laymens' terms for
the three main constituents of blood are
"Red Blood Cells", "Blood
Platelets" and "White Blood
Cells". The scientific term for "white
blood cells" is "leucocytes".
For more information see "Structures
and Functions of Blood Tissue".
The Central Nervous System (CNS) consists
of both "white matter" and "grey
matter". The "white matter"
consists of myelinated axons, the myelin
sheaths of which cause the tissue to have
a pale/white appearance.
"White Muscle Fibre" is
a part of skeletal muscle that has a fast
twitch response, which is concerned with
rapid intermittent movement.