What are Osteoblasts?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Osteoblasts are cells which originate in the bone marrow and contribute to the production of new bone. These cells build up the matrix of the bone structure and also play a role in the mineralization of the bone matrix. Bone is constantly being built up and broken down by the body, making osteoblasts rather critical. The counterpart to the osteoblast is the osteoclast, a cell which is responsible for breaking down bone.

Osteoblasts help produce new bone, helping to repair fractures.
Osteoblasts help produce new bone, helping to repair fractures.

As people get older, their production of osteoblasts decreases. This is why older people tend to have more brittle bones which are at risk of fracture, and why it takes longer for them to heal after breaks, because they have fewer cells to rebuild the damaged bone. Bone health can also be influenced by the amount of available calcium in the diet, as osteoblasts need calcium to work with in the process of building up bone.

Osteoclasts are cells that break down old bone cells to make way for osteoblasts to stimulate new bone growth.
Osteoclasts are cells that break down old bone cells to make way for osteoblasts to stimulate new bone growth.

These cells can differentiate into several different cell types, in addition to working to build up bone. An osteocyte is an osteoblast which becomes trapped in the bone matrix. Osteocytes cannot divide, and they develop long extensions to communicate with other osteocytes. These cells move nutrients and waste through the bone matrix. Bone-lining cells are osteoblasts which become attached to the surface of the bone, flattening in the process.

People typically take in less than 30% of the body's calcium needs through milk and other dietary sources.
People typically take in less than 30% of the body's calcium needs through milk and other dietary sources.

Bone-lining cells appear to play a role in the activation of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, responding to hormones and changing conditions in the body to trigger the most appropriate activity. They also regulate the amount of calcium which can enter the bone, acting as a selectively permeable membrane which can either allow calcium to flow across into the bone, or block calcium absorption.

Seniors have fewer osteoblasts, which means it often takes longer for a fracture to heal.
Seniors have fewer osteoblasts, which means it often takes longer for a fracture to heal.

The osteoblasts are critical to the structure and integrity of the bone. They don't just build new bone, they also maintain and strengthen existing bone, ensuring that the matrix is not compromised and that it is as even as possible. Tag teaming with osteoclasts, they keep the bone in a constant state of renewal which eliminates areas of weakness and addresses cracks, fractures, and other problems.

Viewed in magnification and cross-section, a piece of bone reveals a thriving assortment of osteoblasts and osteoclasts at work, and the tiny pits, known as lacunae, which house the star-shaped osteocytes can be clearly seen. Magnification also shows the complexity and detail of the mineralized matrix which makes up the bones in everything from shrews to elephants.

Osteoblasts are cells in bone marrow that contribute to the production of new bone.
Osteoblasts are cells in bone marrow that contribute to the production of new bone.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon352449

Eventually the osteoblast is surrounded by the growing bone matrix and then gets trapped within the bone matrix. This creates an osteocyte or bone cell.

BioNerd

Strong bones are a sign of good health and a good diet. Making sure you have a strong daily intake of calcium in dairy products and other necessities is an important part of your health routine.

Armas1313

Ancient literature refers to healthy marrow as being a sign of wellness and prosperity. In the Levant, writers and poets would often use graphic and physical imagery in analogies and phrases.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: