Important Bone Tissue: Medical Terms

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  • 0:02 Introduction to Bone Tissue
  • 0:57 Cells in Bone Tissue
  • 3:20 Cortical Bone
  • 4:31 Cancellous Bone
  • 6:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Bone tissue is the strongest and heaviest tissue in your body. In this lesson, learn about the types of bone tissue and the cells that make and remodel bone.

Introduction to Bone Tissue

Your bones are the hardest and strongest tissues in your body, and they support and protect all your other tissues and organs. They also have sites where muscles attach, and this is what allows you to move. As impressive as that is, bone tissue actually does even more!

Bone tissue contains bone marrow, which makes all the blood cells in your body and also makes stem cells that repair and replace damaged bone and other connective tissues. Bone tissue also stores calcium and other minerals, which are used by cells throughout your body.

Bones are not just solid, inert objects. They are made of living tissue that is constantly growing and changing throughout your life, and they possess a remarkable ability to heal themselves. Imagine that you could shrink yourself and go inside a bone. What would you see there? What kinds of cells would you find, and what would the tissue look like?

Cells in Bone Tissue

Inside all types of bone tissue, you will find the same three types of cells, but the structure of the tissue is different depending on where the bone is located and what its function is. There are two types of bone tissue in your body, and inside both you will find three types of cells that work together to keep your bones strong and healthy. Bone tissue is formed by cells called osteoblasts. 'Osteo' means 'bone,' and 'blast' means 'to make,' so an osteoblast is a bone-making cell.

Osteoblasts secrete bone tissue in rings called lamellae that expand outward as the bones grow and develop. As new tissue grows around the osteoblast, a hard ceramic material called hydroxyapatite begins to surround the cell. When it becomes completely surrounded by hard bone tissue, each osteoblast will stop making new bone tissue and turn into an osteocyte.

The root word 'cyte' means 'cell,' and remember that the prefix 'osteo' means 'bone,' so an osteocyte is a cell that lives inside bone tissue. Inside bone tissue, osteocytes don't move around but live inside small spaces called lacunae and are connected to each other through tiny cracks in the bone tissue called canaliculi, which means little canal. Although osteocytes don't make new bone tissue anymore, they're responsible for sensing when the bone is damaged or being subjected to stress. They also tell the other cells what to do and make sure that your bones are growing and changing so that they can meet the demands that you place on them as you go about your daily activities.

The third important cell in bone tissue is the osteoclast. Osteoclasts are very large cells that usually have many nuclei. 'Osteoclast' means 'bone-eating cell,' and these are cells that are responsible for destroying old or damaged bone so that it can be repaired and replaced by osteoblasts. In healthy bones, the process of remodeling bone tissue by destroying old bone and replacing it with new bone is always ongoing and very carefully regulated so that the bones provide the necessary support without becoming too thick and heavy. It's even more important that they don't become too thin, which could cause the bone to fracture easily.

Cortical Bone

Although all bone tissue is biologically the same and contains the same types of cells, it is structured differently depending on where in the body it is found. If you were to look inside long bones like your femur and tibia, you would find bone tissue that is very dense and strong. This type of strong, dense bone tissue is called cortical bone. In addition to being found in long bones, cortical bone also forms the outer layer, or cortex, of all other types of bones. It's called cortical bone because it's always present in the cortex of all your bones.

Looking inside cortical bone, you will see that there are rings of bone tissue that look similar to the rings you would see in the trunk of a tree stump. These rings are arranged into structures called osteons. Each osteon is made of concentric rings of bone tissue surrounding a central canal known as a Haversian canal.

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