Periosteum of Bone: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 Definition of Periosteum
  • 1:35 Functions of Periosteum
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Virginia Rawls

Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

Periosteum is a very thin membrane that covers many of the bones in your body. It serves as protection as well as a channel for the blood supply and nutrients for bone tissue. In this lesson, you will learn exactly what periosteum is and the function that it serves in our skeletal system.

Definition of Periosteum

Periosteum is a very thin sheath of connective tissue that encourages proper bone growth and development and delivers blood and nutrients to the bones, and it covers most of the bones in your body. As a reminder, connective tissue is tissue that helps support, connect, hold together, or separate other tissues. In fact, it's easier to note the few bones that this tissue does not cover! The periosteum doesn't cover the portion of bones that contains articular cartilage, which is the cartilage found in joints that keeps the bones from rubbing together. Periosteum is also not found on several of the small bones in your hands and feet.

This connective tissue is made up of two different layers:

  • The fibrous periosteum is the outer layer furthest away from the bone. The cells in this layer are densely packed, and it contains lymphatics, blood vessels, and nerve endings.
  • The osteogenic periosteum is the inner layer that lies right on top of the bone. It is not as tightly packed and contains cells that help in bone growth and repair.

To help you imagine what periosteum looks like, I want you to think about making a hard-boiled egg. Once the egg has been cooked and given time to cool, the next step would be to peel the shell away from the egg. Have you ever peeled the shell off of the hard-boiled egg and noticed the very thin, white layer that lies between the egg and the shell? That is exactly what the periosteum looks like and how much it blends in with the surrounding anatomy.

Functions of Periosteum

To best describe what the periosteum does, we need to look at the layers individually. Both layers are very important to bone health but do completely different things. The fibrous, outer layer of the periosteum serves as a place where skeletal muscle attaches to the bone. Think of this as the glue that holds the muscle onto the bone. This layer of the periosteum also helps get nutrients to the bone tissue. Volkmann canals allow for the blood supply from the periosteum to enter into the bone tissue.

The inner periosteum contains cells responsible for bone repair and growth. These cells are known as osteoblasts, and they help the bone to elongate as a person grows and develops with age. These cells can also help grow bone when there is an injury, like a fracture. Periosteum's second layer also contains a fibrous band that helps adhere the periosteum to the underlying bone.

There has not been as much research conducted on the periosteum as there has been on other skeletal and muscle tissues. Today, scientists are exploring the tissue further to determine if there are other functions of the periosteum that have been overlooked.

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