What Is the Function of Osteoblasts?

Osteoclasts are cells that break down old bone cells to make way for osteoblasts to stimulate new bone growth.
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  • Written By: A. Reed
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 31 July 2014
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The chief function of osteoblasts is the formation of bone. Bone formation begins within cartilage and connective tissue membranes during the third prenatal month, ending sometime between late adolescence and early adulthood. Cartilage develops, becoming the long bones of the body, such as the femur and humerus. Flat, skull bones develop out of connective tissue membranes. Bone mineralization is another function of osteoblasts, which are found on the surface of bone.

Another function of osteoblasts is differentiating into osteocytes, which are mature bone cells that are no longer capable of cell division. Osteocytes become lodged within the lacunae of bone, playing a primary role in bone remodeling. Bone remodeling, which occurs throughout the entire span of life, is the process responsible for maintaining the balance of bone formation and resorption. Osteocytes are mechanosensors, capable of detecting mechanical stress, thereby initiating bone resorption. How osteocytes accomplish this was not fully understood as of 2011.

Osteoclasts are responsible for breaking down osteoid, the bone matrix. As osteocytes die, osteoclasts eat away dead bone cells. Minerals such as calcium move into the bloodstream for use by the body. As resorption occurs, new bone cells form, which is a function of osteoblasts.

Remodeling makes shaping and repairing of the skeleton possible. It also is a response to mechanical demands. Running, jumping, walking and standing are examples of mechanical demands commonly placed upon the body.

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With age, remodeling becomes imbalanced. Bone resorption occurs more often than formation, causing osteoporosis, a condition of fragile, porous bone. This is the reason older people are at increased risk for falls and fractures.

Bone cells sometimes divide uncontrollably, becoming tumorous. These cells do not function normally and compete for space with healthy bone cells. Bone tumors might be benign, but others are malignant and cancerous.

Cancer that originates within bone is called primary bone cancer. Tumor growth caused by metastasis from another area of the body, such as the breast or lungs, is referred to as secondary bone cancer. People who have advanced cancer commonly develop secondary bone cancer because of the vascularity of the bone matrix.

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Osteoporosis is a fact of life for much of the aging population. A diagnosis of osteoporosis means a lifestyle change is probably in order. Exercise helps your body strengthen up, so you are better prepared to prevent that very dangerous fall.

A calcium rich diet mixed with vitamin D is also something you can do to help yourself out. A vitamin supplement may be in order, although consulting with your doctor is the best way to go as far as that is concerned.

There are different types of prescriptions your doctor may prescribe to assist your battle with osteoporosis. Each person has a different path and so there are many different avenues your doctor may take as far as the right prescription that fits you.

Prevention is a key. The medical profession recommends that after the age of 65 you should be aware if you have a problem with your bone density. There may even be a need for women under the age of 65 who have increased risk factors like heredity or other illnesses known to deplete bone density to be screened.

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