Introduction to Bone Biology


The human skeleton
gives the body its shape and provides physical support
for the systems contained within. It also forms part
of the musculoskeletal system that enables us to move. The structure of bone
is optimized so that it is strong
but relatively lightweight. The interior of bone
is composed of bone marrow. It is surrounded by two
major types of bone tissue: cortical bone, or the hard,
outer shell of bone, and trabecular bone,
the spongey-looking center. The amount of each type
of tissue in bone is dependent on
the function of that bone. The basic unit of cortical
or compact bone is the osteon. It is composed of successive,
concentric lamellae. This structure contributes
to bone strength by resisting bending. Cells called osteocytes
are distributed within the concentric lamellae. Osteocytes form
a complex network that is thought to be important
in maintaining the viability and structural
integrity of bone. At the center of the osteon
is the Haversian canal. These canals contain
blood vessels and nerves. The blood vessels
within bone facilitate the exchange between osteocytes
and the blood. Trabecular bone is present
in the interior of some bones and resists compression. Osteocytes are also contained
within its structure, and again play an important role in sensing local changes
in strain. Trabecula are covered in a layer
of flat and lining cells that are thought to be
involved in the dynamic process by which bone is formed
and broken down. Bone marrow is found
within the interior of bones. The surrounding trabecula
and vascular network provides structural support, nutrition,
and a waste removal system that a heterogenous group of
cells found within this space. Bone marrow is a site
for hematopoiesis, the process by which the cellular
components to blood are formed.